Tulu film industry
Though Tulu has a limited market, it has created its own mark in the regional film history by producing some 30 films in 30 years. This was possible only because of adventuresome men who wanted to make it in a big manner in their own language. In addition to Tulu, Konkani is another popular spoken language in Tulu Nadu. Though the market for Konkani is still smaller than that of Tulu, there are some 20-odd Konkani films – indeed a fine tribute to the daring nature of the people of Tulu Nadu. Ennatangadi was the first Tulu film ( ) directed by SR Rajan ( ). Sukhi Kaun was the first Konkani film ( ) directed by .
As of now (2006) Tulu film industry is three decades old now. Here is a list of 30 films produced in it: 1. Ennatangadi; 2. Daredha budadhi; 3. Pagetta Puge; 4. Bisatti Babu; 5. Koti Chennaiia; 6. Kaasdaya Kandane; 7. Udalda Todar; 8. Yaan Sanyasi aape; 9. Bayya mallige; 10. Yer malthina tappu; 11. Saaviradorti saavithri; 12. Inquilab zindabad; 13. Tulu naada siri; 14. Sangama saakshi; 15. Nyaayogaad enna baduku; 16. Bollidota; 17. Kariyani kattandi kandane; 18. Bhagyavatemdi; 19. Badkera budle; 20. Daareda seere; 21. Raathri pagel; 22. Pettayi pili; 23. Badkomji kavite; 24. Satya olumdu; 25. Bangar patler; 26. Badk da bille; 27. September 8; 28. Kaala; 29. Maribale; 30. Omte edjast malpi.
Considering the limited range for Tulu, I should say these films have really made it well. In the recent past there haven’t been any serious efforts for a new film. But Tulu theatre has seen some outstanding hits presented by professional troupes. Bale Chaparka and other plays staged by Devadasa Kapikad and many other troupes have made Tulu stage a success. Comedy is a well-known form in this theatre. These troupes have become so famous that they have year-long advance booking in Tulu Nadu, Mumbai and Dubai where a lot of Tulu people have gone and settled. Tulu plays make a good collection in overseas market too. Considering this, the film industry should again try its hands on Tulu films.
While I was researching for this essay, I went to the National Film Archives of India in search of some study material. Casually I tried to locate some Tulu films too. To my surprise and joy I was rewarded aplenty. I found there a print of Sangama Saakshi, the 14th Tulu film. It was lost and found in the unclaimed property section of the Indian Railway many years ago. The authorities at the Archives could not however enlighten me more about it. It is my earnest suggestion that the Indian film industry in general and Tulu in particular assisted by the Karnataka Tulu Akademi should make a concerted attempt at tracing all the Tulu films of the past.
Many filmmakers came to Tulu Nadu, appreciated the virility and charm of Tulu language and culture and made films in this language. I learnt that most of them ran for 100 days and more. But the production was done so lavishly (again a typical characteristic of the Tulu culture) that most of the films couldn’t recover even the cost of production. Yet the never-ending but ever-growing love for the language, people and culture keeps the flame of adventure bright. At the present there are three Tulu films on the anvil (shooting floors) creating a strong tradition of films in Tulu Nadu.
Pioneers in the Tulu film industry
Sadananda Suvarna: A resident of Mumbai for many years. Producer of Girish Kasaravalli’s first film, Ghatashraddha. Worked for almost four decades in the Mumbai theatre. His first film Kubi mattu Iyala which brought him name and fame had its script by Girish Kasaravalli. Suvarna has made a significant contribution to serious Kannada film. Presently (2006) he lives in Mangalore.
Chinna Kasaragodu: Coming from the theatre background, he has played major roles in many serious Kannada films like Phaniyamma, Kendada Male, Ravana rajya, Asphota, Mysoora mallige etc.
Richard Castelino: A very important name in both the Tulu and Konkani film industries. He dared to produce many films for the small market. He started his career by directing Bangar Patler. He exhibited his prowess by directing a film in just 48 hours.
Girish Kasaravalli: I include his name in this list because he is one of my favorite Indian directors, an alumnus of the FTII Pune, has made about 10 films in about 30 years each one being a hit. In his films he has used a considerable number of elements from Tulu Nadu. His recent film Haseena which was shown at Indian Panorama section of International film festival of India, 2005, won three national awards. Most of it was shot in Tulu Nadu. Local artists were also commissioned thus including lot of inputs from this region too. In his previous film, Dweepa, he has used Bhoota Kola which is again from Tulu Nadu. He depicts in his films, very subtly though, his firm belief in traditional values. This adds a welcome local flavour to his films. He is director with a difference – always fresh and in search of greener pastures of creativity.
Shivarama Karanth: I have already referred to his innings in filmmaking. He is remembered more for the experiment he did in this untrodden land. Though the film ended as a failure the lessons drawn out of it have stood well by the subsequent filmmakers. The most important lesson is: Yakshagana cannot be straight transplanted into film and vice versa.
Karanth BV: Born in Babu Kodi near Bantwala. More famous as a theatre luminary. Passed out from the National School of Drama. Highly inspired by Yakshagana. Features of Yakshagana naturally made their presence in almost all his works. Made his debut into the film world by directing Vamsha Vriksha, a very powerful novel by SL Bhyrappa. Later he directed Shivarama Karanth’s Chomana Dudi. It won the Swarna Kamala award. He has directed music for many films like Phaniyamma, Ghatashraaddha, Hamsa Geete etc. He has won national award for music direction too.
Kalinga Rao P: His father was a Yakshagana performer. Rao started his career as a theatre actor. Soon earned a name through the Bhavageeta medium (light classical music or sugam sangeet). In his active days he got an opportunity to direct music direct for the Hindi film Prem Sagar. He played a small role in the film Vasanta Sena. He had scored music for several Kannada films too. He is well-known setting tune to and singing the Kannada lyric Udayavaagali namma cheluva Kannada naadu.
Kishori Ballal: Born in Mangalore, trained under Shivarama Karanth, she is a versatile actress. She learnt Bharatanatya. After marriage she went to Mumbai only to return as an actress in a film Kudure Motte directed by GV Iyer. She has acted in Kannada and Tulu films. The Kannada films are Mysoora malige, Muttina Haara etc. She has acted in several Hindi films too. Her role in Swadesh with Sharukh Khan is still fresh in the connoisseurs’ minds across the country.
Sheshadri P: One of the famous directors in Kannada. He has directed the Kannada film Munnudi. It was largely shot in Mangalore and surrounding areas. This film got the national award for the best film with social concern and the best supporting actor. It makes several historical references to Tulu Nadu – a historical film with a strong feminist refrain.
Guru Kiran: A singer and composer in the clubs at Mangalore Kiran went to Bangalore and started his film career in Upendra’s film A. Today he is at the top as a music director in Karnataka.
Ganapati Bhat B: This man from Dakshina Kannada originally was a theatre artist. Began his film career during the silent movie era. Has acted in Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu, Marathi, Hindi and Tamil films. Today he is afamous comedian.
Jayamala: Hailing from Dakshina Kannada this actress won national award for the film Tai Saheba. Her contribution to serious Kannada cinema is significant. She has acted with Rajkumar in several major roles.
Jayaram Udupi: One of the most famous dance directors in the Kannada film industry. He started his career with Bhagyodaya.
Tailor KN: Originally a theatre artist. Has directed several films in Tulu and made name in the Kannada industry too.
Leelavari M: One of the famous supporting actresses in the Kannada film world of yesteryears. Has acted in several films with Raj Kumar.
Praveen Nayak: Graduated from St Aloysius College, Mangalore, he became a photojournalist. Started his film career as an actor in film Sh! Later he directed film Z. He has directed another film called Hun antiya Hun hun antiya.
Koodlu Ramakrishna: He hails from Kodagu. Has directed the Tulu film Rathri Pagal, several films in Kannada and TV programmes too. His rural experience has stood him well in his films. Has won several state awards.
I am deeply aware of the fact that the above list is but partial. For, the contribution from Tulu Nadu and culture to the serious Kannada film is great and beyond quick measure. A concerted effort needs to be made. I am sure such an exploration will yield a rich harvest. Here is a small geographical entity with a big cultural history whose impress is discernible in every field that the people groomed by this culture have worked and enriched.
People in Bollywood
There are plenty of Tulu people in Mumbai pursuing different vocations, mostly in the hotel business. Tulu culture is their rallying centre. Naturally quite a number of these enterprising people have gravitated towards the film world called Bollywood. Some of the prominent gems here are Aishwarya Rai, Sunil Shetty, Shilpa Shetty so on. One of the biggest names in the industry is Manmohan Shetty of Adlabs. Besides these celebrities there are a considerable number of men and women engaged in the infrastructural areas of the film industry in Bollywood such as behind-the-scene and greenroom setups, marketing and advertising services, travel, board and lodging facilities etc. In brief Bollywood is a universe with a considerable presence of the Tulu people.
Yakshagana CD and DVD
In the last two to three years, with the advent of the digital video technology, Tulu Nadu has seen a huge production of Yakshagana CD and DVDs. Initially it was only audio CDs but now it is video CDs and DVDs too. Many Yakshagana troupes have recorded their performances and they are now available in CD formats. This has provided a good market for the audiovisual medium thus enlarging the area for the film world also. I have seen in Mangalore and other towns in Tulu Nadu a sea change in the infrastructural facilities available for audiovisual production. This has naturally widened the scope of the job market in the cinema world. A new technical term Mollywood or better Tuluwood may soon blossom around Mangalore!
The advent of new technologies has opened a large vista for entrepreneurs to venture. Infrastructural facility aplenty, cultural heritage very rich and the number of young aspirants with new dreams are perennial. Under these favourable conditions Tulu Nadu requires better training and organizational facilities locally. Then and then only can the native talents be channeled to achieve greater heights of excellence with the indelible Tulu impress. May the present deliberation help all right thinking people to focus their resources in that direction! Thank you for your patient hearing. I would love to answer your questions, if any.
1. Kannada Chalana Chitra Itihasa, 2001, Publication division, Prasaranga, Kannada University, Hampi
2. Paniyara, 1989, Tulu Koota ®, Mangalore DK
3. Nadu Nudiyidhondu bage, 2003, Hemanshu Prakashana, Drishya, Gollachil, Urva Store, Mangalore
4. Kannada Vishvakosha (in 14 volumes), University of Mysore