Dhananjaya’s Head Bush
A still from Dhananjaya’s Head Bush, the only major Kannada film to release this festive season.

Why Kannada film industry has been wary of a Deepavali release

Actors and filmmakers usually go all guns blazing for a Deepavali release every year to cash in on the holiday season. The Kannada film industry, however, has been tepid and unenthused during the festival for a few years. Even during this Deepavali, there were no major releases apart from Dhananjaya’s Head Bush. In fact, the lack of big film releases in Kannada this festive season has extended the dream run for Rishab Shetty’s Kantara, which released on September 30.

Big-ticket filmmakers and their marketing teams plan the release date of their films almost a year in advance. Deepavali, the festival of lights, is one such holiday that the Hindi, Tamil and Telugu film industries eagerly look forward to.

Bollywood, for instance, has three major releases for Diwali. Akshay Kumar, Sidharth Malhotra, Ajay Devgn, and Sharad Kelkar saw their films — Ram Setu, Thank God and Har Har Har Mahadev, respectively — clash against each other. All three movies hit the theatres on October 25.

In Tamil, Sivakarthikeyan’s Prince and Karthi’s Sardaar are fighting it out at the box office. In Telugu, Vishnu Manchu’s Ginna and Vishwak Sen’s Ori Devuda are battling to keep the cash registers ringing.

Also ReadNo Vijay or Ajith film: Diwali sparkle missing in TN theatres this year

A clash between two or more superstars’ films during Deepavali has been the norm across industries for years. However, stars in Kannada do not seem to consider Deepavali as the best time for releasing their films.

Kantara Kannada film
No big film release in Kannada this Deepavali has extended the dream run for Rishab Shetty’s Kantara

Kannada filmmakers prefer Dussehra

Deepavali or Diwali is big for Bollywood, Kollywood and Tollywood. For the Kannada film industry, however, it is Dussehra, which is the best time for release. “Our people don’t enjoy films during Deepavali holidays and, hence, one should not expect big stars to release their films around this time. There have been instances when big films were released during the festive season, but the Kannada film industry is not so keen on Deepavali releases,” says film critic B Ganapathi.

Another film critic, M. Sagar, says: “Most Kannadigas living in Bangalore (now Bengaluru) would like to return to their hometowns for Deepavali. We don’t have the habit of enjoying movies in theatres during the festival season like they do in Tamil Nadu and the Telugu-speaking states. That is how the culture has been for years and this year is no exception’.

Also read:  Kantara: Rajinikanth calls it a ‘masterpiece’; praises Rishab Shetty

The last time Sandalwood saw a big clash during Deepavali was in 2016. Two big films, Rocking Star Yash’s Santhu Straight Forward and Mukunda Murari, starring Upendra and Kichcha Sudeep, clashed at the box office. The distributor of Mukunda Murari had then said: ‘It is always nice to have the maximum number of film releases during the festive season.” However, both films failed to create an impact at the box office.

Down South, the Tamil film industry is known to have some of the biggest clashes between superstars during Deepavali.

Shah Rukh Khan Baazigar
The first Shah Rukh Khan movie to release during Diwali was Baazigar (1993).

Shah Rukh Khan: The king of Diwali

In the North, Bollywood’s baadshah Shah Rukh Khan is known to be the king of Diwali releases. In fact, many say that the festival of lights has catapulted Shah Rukh Khan to the status of the ‘king of Bollywood’.

Shah Rukh Khan has had 11 of his films released during Diwali in his career spanning over 30 years. Surprisingly, all of them have been blockbusters for Khan. He is the only actor to have had a 100 per cent success strike rate when it comes to Diwali releases in Bollywood.

The first Shah Rukh Khan movie to release during Diwali was Baazigar (1993). It was later followed by one of the biggest hits in his career, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995). Ever since then, there have been a slew of films like Dil To Pagal Hai (1997), Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), Mohabbatein (2000), Veer Zaara (2004), Don (2006), Om Shanti Om (2007) Ra.One (2011), Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012) and Happy New Year (2014).

Other heroes, including Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn, have had their films clashing with Shah Rukh Khan during Diwali, but SRK has always emerged as the winner every time.

Kichcha Sudeep’s Kotigobba 3
In October 2011, Kichcha Sudeep’s Kotigobba 3 and Duniya Vijay’s Salaga were up against each other during Dasara.

Kannada superstars steer clear of clash

The Kannada film industry unitedly tries to avoid a clash at the box office between superstars. The last time we saw such a clash of superstars was in October 2011. Kichcha Sudeep’s Kotigobba 3 and Duniya Vijay’s Salaga were up against each other during Dussehra. Salaga emerged as the clear winner as the release of Kotigobba 3 got into controversies at the last minute.

Also read: KGF, Kantara effect: Kannada cinema plots unexplored territories

One of the biggest clashes that this generation of movie-goers in Kannada remember was between Kichcha Sudeep and Challenging Star Darshan’s films. That was almost 15 years ago. Even though Kichcha Sudeep established himself as a hero much before Darshan, the two were and are seen as contemporaries. Back then, Kichcha Sudeep’s career was seeing a dull phase with back-to-back flops and Darshan was riding high with back-to-back hits.

Kichcha Sudeep’s directorial My Autograph and Darshan’s Suntaragaali were released on the same day in 2006. While My Autograph was a family-oriented film, Suntaragaali was an out-and-out mass entertainer. Darshan’s film took off to a great opening and Sudeep’s film fell flat, but the hysteria was over after the first weekend. My Autograph picked up slowly a few days later and went on to become one of the biggest hits in Sudeep’s career.

Ever since then, superstars in Kannada have always tried to avoid a clash even though such stories help films create a buzz among the audience. Filmmakers in Kannada have been very careful after the pandemic; they plan in such a manner that gives every film at least a week or two to have its run at the box office before another film is released.

Dhananjay’s Head Bush was the only big film that released this Deepavali and many feel that it was not the right time to release a gangster drama. It needs to be seen if Kannada filmmakers look forward to Deepavali next year.

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