100th Tulu language film brings industry’s opportunities, challenges to the fore

Mangaluru | Updated on November 19, 2018

Johny Lever in Tulu film Rang

The first 50 Tulu films were spread over 43 years; the next 50 took just four

Many of us who have watched Bollywood flicks such as Singham might have heard a few dialogues in Tulu. The Tulu movie industry, which is still young, is growing rapidly. The 100th Tulu movie, Karne (Karna), released on November 16.

While it took almost 43 years from 1971, for the first 50 Tulu movies, the next 50 came in just four years.

The Tulu movie industry got a major boost in 2011 when noted Tulu drama playwright, Vijayakumar Kodialbail made one of his famous dramas Oriyardori Asal (one is smarter than the other) as the 41st Tulu movie. It had the record of running for 175 days, with four shows a day. That was the turning point for the industry.

Kodialbail told BusinessLine that it was a time when the movie exhibition infrastructure was in a transition. Until then, Tulu movies were being released with only one print. But he decided to release the movie with four prints and through the satellite-based digital projection system as well.

Added to this, Mangaluru had gotten its first multiplex by then, attracting more movie-goers.

The drama Oriyardori Asal, which was in its 25th year at the time, had its own brand image and nostalgic value. With more than 1,000 shows, it was seen by many, who then wanted to watch it as a movie. All these factors contributed to the movie’s successful run.

This gave a boost to the other aspirants to produce and release Tulu movies.

Tamma Lakshmana, an art director in Tulu movies, who has been chronicling their history, said that though the industry made its beginning in 1971, there were no movies between2001and2006. However, the industry produced 50 movies in a span of four years from 2014.

Monetary factor

On budgets in the Tulu movie industry, Shivadhwaja Shetty, a Kannada and Tulu actor, director and producer, said that movies made with budgets in the ₹40-50 lakh range made some money. However, Some producers who claimed to have invested around ₹1 crore in their movies did not do well at the box office.

For this, Sachin Uppinangady, co-producer of a hit Tulu movie, said many producers are crossing their budgets in comparison to the exhibition infrastructure of the region.

B Jagannath Shetty, who has worked as a public relations executive for more than 40 Tulu movies, said that the coastal region has around 12-15 exhibition centres, in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi in Karnataka and Kasaragod in Kerala. The decision to exhibit in other centres such as Mumbai, Bengaluru, and West Asia depends on the performance of the movie in the first week in the coastal region.

Tulu movies also face the competition for exhibition from big-budget movies in other languages. On the lack of repeat producers for Tulu movies, Sachin Uppinangady said that though he is a successful producer, he would think twice before producing another movie due to the lack of exhibition infrastructure in the region.

Shivadhwaja Shetty said that more than 50 per cent of the producers invest in movies because of passion. Stating that a herd mentality will not work here, he said those who produce movies with the pulse of the market and limited budgets make a decent profit.

Asked about the performance of the 50 movies after 2014, Kodialbail said five movies had made decent profits.

Being over-the-top

Shivadhwaja Shetty said that producers are now getting another source of income from over-the-top (OTT) platforms. The OTT platform Voot has bought the rights of eight Tulu movies, he said. Depending on their content and performance in the theatres, these titles got around ₹4- ₹8 lakh per film.

At present, the Tulu movie industry is focusing on the comedy and action genres. There is a need to experiment in other genres also to attract new audiences, he said.

On the future

Stakeholders feel the Tulu movie industry might not sustain the same speed of production that it has witnessed in the last four years.

Shivadhwaja Shetty said the next 50 movies may take double the time taken by the last 50.

Stating that the speed of movie-making has already come down in the industry, Sachin Uppinangady stressed the need to improve the exhibition infrastructure in Tulu-speaking coastal districts.

Jagannath Shetty said that ₹4-5 crore were invested every year in the last four years. This provided livelihood to more than 300 people, including technicians and actors, in the region.

Published on November 18, 2018

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