Rishab Shetty’s Kantara has taken the country by storm, poised to breach the Rs. 400 crore milestone at the time of going to press, notching up an unprecedented rating of 9.4 on IMDB, the highest yet for an Indian film, and fans continuing to rave about it on social media.
The film’s appeal might be a sign that the Kannada industry is finally ready to join the elite league so far dominated by Telugu and Tamil cinema as national competitors to Bombay in terms of box-office success while Malayalam cinema continues to rake in critical acclaim. The first signs of a Kannada wave came when Prashanth Neel’s over-the-top crime drama KGF I and II set the box office on fire.
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Yet, let us not forget that the Kannada industry actually broke new ground in the arthouse movement in the 1970s with bold movies such as Samskara and Ghatashraddha. Luminaries such as Girish Karnad and Anant Nag established their credentials in other languages as well, while stalwarts like Naseeruddin Shah and Raghuvir Yadav found a welcoming home and meaningful roles in Kannada films. And who can forget that pan-Indian pioneer Shankar Nag, whose Malgudi Days delighted audiences from Kashmir to Kanyakumari? However, Kannada cinema’s Achilles’ heel has been its lack of consistency, with the best films remaining but flashes in the pan.
Whether Kantara can break that trend remains to be seen, but we take a look here at some of the big films and personalities produced by the Kannada industry over the years.