There has never been a Kannada Film Festival in Chennai before. Not before Thursday evening. Every Kannada film patron flocked to the Russian Cultural Centre in Chennai, on 28 July. The festival kicked off with the film Thithi, that has been brimming with praise ever since its release this year.
The festival, organised by the Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy (KCA), will be screening popular Kannada films released this year, for free. Suhasini Maniratnam, known for starring in popular Kannada and Tamil films, hosting the festival. Veteran actress Saroja Devi, Lakshmi Narayan, Chaya Singh, and Ambika from the Kannada film industry were the guests at the inaugural function.
The auditorium had more people than seats. People stood at the back and in the corners of the small auditorium to watch their favourite artists speak on what makes Kannada films different.
Spearheaded by Kannada film director SV Rajendra Singh Babu, the festival kicked off with Karnataka’s state anthem ‘Jaya Bharata Jananiya Tanujate’, following which, Suhasini introduced the audience to the festival. “My son is studying in Oxford and seldom watches my husband’s (Mani Ratnam) films. He hardly watches Kannada films, too. But, he told me recently that he now wants to watch a Kannada film because it’s being talked about in Oxford. And that is the film we will watch tonight – Thithi,” she said.
Rajendra Singh Babu spoke of how Karnataka functions with a mere 700 theatres out of which 400 screen films of other languages. “Managing with 300 theatres, we screen our films. We can never venture into high-budgeted films purely because of this reason,” he said, promising that now Woodlands Theatre in Chennai will soon start screening Kannada films.
In response to Babu’s statement on the lack of high-budget films in the state, Tamil film director Vikraman said that while Tamil Nadu makes high budget films, the state still suffers from something worse. “Piracy is a huge issue here. Take the case of Kabali. Before the film released in theatres, the film was released online illegally,” he said.
The festival will screen a total of 11 films, including Thithi, U-Turn, Harivu, Marikondavaru, and Mr & Mrs Ramachari until 31 July.