2020 has seen two small content-driven films in Kannada shine significantly. One of them is KS Ashoka’s Dia that tells the heartwarming love story of its introverted protagonist who falls in love with her collegemate Rohith. The film stars Kushee, Pruthvi Ambar, and Deekshith Shetty is directed by KS Ashoka. The other is Love Mocktail.
Dia, which ran for three weeks in cinema halls, didn’t do as well as expected in theatres, but is being received with warmth on Amazon Prime. The director is elated with the response the film is getting online. He says, “I’m getting almost 1000 messages a day from people who’ve watched it on Prime.”
The filmmaker who’d written Dia’s script way back in 2009 much before his first film 6-5=2 released, adds, “My first movie was low budget and we invested Rs 50 lakh in it, but it made a business of Rs 5 crore. For Dia, we held an audition to choose the star cast. Kushee had acted in a film called Sodabuddi as second lead and Pruthvi is a famous actor in the Tulu industry. While we were sure that the film would receive positive feedback, we were not sure how well it would do commercially because our content is meant for a niche audience that appreciates cinema, not for those who look for just entertainment in films.”
The fact that Dia received support from actors Rakshit Shetty and Yash made the team happy. Ask the film’s director about how well the film has done financially and he says, “We had a deal with the digital platform — we may break even soon. People from other languages are also interested in remaking our film, so that’s something we’re looking at. It’s too early to say anything now.”
In the film’s storyline, Dia meets with a serious accident and then learns that her boyfriend Rohith is dead. She then moves to Bengaluru where she meets Adi (played by Pruthvi Ambar) who falls in love with her.
The lead character has been played by actress Kushee, who hails from a theatre background. The artiste is thrilled to bits that her debut as lead is receiving so much appreciation. “Sadly, it wasn’t recognised much when it was running in theatres. There were too many releases around that time and I’m guessing that people were confused as to what to watch. But I’m flying high now that people are watching it on Prime and liking it,” says Kushee, who plays an introvert in the film.
“In real life, I’m not so introverted, but I’m not entirely an extrovert either. Ashok sir wanted us to be perfect and told us what will work and how we should do things. We prepared for three – four months before the shoot,” she says, of the film which was shot four years ago.
Actor Deeskhith Shetty who plays Rohith in the film too says he’s is overwhelmed by the response from not just film buffs from Karnataka, but also audiences from other states who watched his debut. “I’ve been receiving messages from Gujarat, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. There are people who travelled from Chennai just to watch Dia in Bengaluru. I’ve done a TV serial before and this was a very different character for me – people saw me in a new shade.”
With films like Love Mocktail and Dia turning out to be sweet surprises for the Kannada audience, Ashok says, “We have to be consistent with our content. I feel Kannada audiences don’t trust Kannada films much, as they’re exposed to other language cinema. The standard of presentation in the Kannada Film Industry has to improve and we need to come up with good content once a month or once in two months.”
With small budget and content-driven films with no stars making a mark, here’s hoping that the industry makes space for more such films.