How Kannada films can help spread Kannada

RAVEESH KUMAR writes from Bangalore: Can Kannada cinema be the ambassador for Kannada language? This question has been in my mind for some time now although there have been lots of debates on the issue of the language.

The trigger was how Hindi, as a language, has spread all over India. I am sure all who speak Hindi are not well versed in reading and writing the language. Yet that does not stop anybody from conversing in Hindi in almost any part of India.

What, then, is the magic ingredient that helps India’s largest spoken language to enlarge its footprint?

And can Kannada tap that too?

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Hindi cinema or Bollywood has played a big role in helping spread Hindi language. Though learning Hindi as a third language in schools in most States has helped its cause to some extent, it is the charisma of Hindi films which makes it easy for any person to learn and speak the language.

That applies partly to movies of other languages, too, like Tamil or Telugu; at least they have a presence in South India outside their home-States, if not across the country. I got introduced to Tamil when I was in Mangalore; it was through the song Chiku buku raile from the movie Gentleman. Kaadalan, Roja, Bombay were next in line to cast their spell.

People readily admit that they learn the language by watching movies. Does that open a window of opportunity for Kannada?

Here are a few questions for Kannada cinema to ponder upon: How often are Kannada films released outside the State, if not outside the country? How many films are screened, say, in Kasaragod district of Kerala, with a sizeable Kannada and Tulu population? How many before they become blockbusters like Yajamaana or Mungaaru Male?

Big cities like Bombay, Poona, Madras too have a good number of Kannadigas as do the border districts of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu where Kannada is spoken. Why can’t we screen our films there?

In Bangalore, movie halls show languages of six different languages every day. Can’t we screen Kannada movies in places where there is a significant presence of Kannadigas when Tamil and Telugu films travel to places where there is a much smaller presence of Tamilians and Telugus, sometimes not even that?

Marketing would have made sure that it reaches places unheard of in mainstream media. Can we have the same marketing for namma Kannada films too?

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Prakash Belavadi, the playwright and director of the English movie Stumble, said in a seminar recently that we Kannadigas are a lot more emotional about the script we follow. He said we give importance to lipi (script) rather than nudi (language).

Have you observed that Hindi ad punch lines are always written in English?

Bollywood movies in the late ’90s began the trend of putting everything from film name to ‘The End’ message in English and that is not without reason too, as most of the movie goers could read English, so it was easy to understand.

Can we have a similar thing for Kannada cinema too?

Along with the name in Kannada script can we have it written in English so that non-Kannadigas too able to read the title, in turn learn a few Kannada phrases!

Interestingly we find most times, captions after the film title in all English! Big hoardings in Bangalore now have Kannada written in English sometimes. If only they could be more meaningful it would serve the purpose.

I am making it clear that it is not to replace the beautiful Kannada script but it is a temporary solution to the “don’t know Kannada” problem.

A few days back, I was asked by a non-Kannadiga colleague to translate ‘Ninnindale’ song from the movie, Milana to English. Songs like Beduvanu Varavannu from Jogi and Anisuthido Yaako Indu from Mungaaru Male and most recently Jinke Marina from Nanda loves Nanditha are liked by every Bangalorean no matter whether he is a Kannadiga or not. FM radio plays its part too.

Good things are always appreciated devoid of language barriers. When that is the case, should we take steps to make Kannada more accessible?

Having said all that we have to make more ‘good’ movies and market lesser popular but technically good movies. One Mungaaru Male or one Duniya is not enough to make a huge difference. Firstly filmmakers have to come out of their Bangalore centered approach while making films. Then there should be good marketing to explore new markets and in turn spreading the language of the land.

Also read: How Kannada filmdom is killing Kannada music

When breath is scarce like the sound of whisper