Talibanisation of Kannada cinema and television

VASANT SHETTY writes from Bangalore: Aamir Khan announced his entry into the small screen with “Satya Meva Jayate” a few days ago. The program was planned to be aired in several Indian languages including Kannada on Star India’s network channels.

In Kannada, Suvarna, the general entertainment channel owned by Rajeev Chandrasekhar, was supposed to air this program from May 6.

Now, this program will be telecasted in Hindi, Telugu and Tamil while Kannada gets dropped from the list, thanks to the ban on dubbing imposed by a few sundry private organisations in the name of protecting Kannada language and culture.

The same associations which ransacked the office of Zee Kannada last year protesting its move to air a voice-dubbed program on Jhansi Rani Laxmibai are at it again. Fortunately, this time Suvarna backed off before the associations took law into their hands.

This brings us to the question: Who are these organisations to ban anything in a constitutional democracy?

In a civilised democratic society, there is no place for bans of any kind even if it is imposed by an elected government. In a democracy, I, as a consumer, have every right to demand all sources of knowledge and entertainment in a language of my choice as long as my demands are within the limits of law.

Like me, there are lakhs of Kannadigas who may want to watch a Disney character speaking in Kannada, or a Discovery, Animal Planet program on Amazon forests being aired in Kannada, or watching Avatar 3D in Kannada. Why am I being denied my rightful access to all these in a language of my choice?

Has Karnataka ceased to be a democratic State any more?

Has it become a banana republic where unelected feudal people rule the roost?

Have you seen something similar in any other cinema industry?

Like any other trade, the trade of cinema runs on supply and demand. Where there is a demand for certain products and services, there will be suppliers willing to supply them for profit.

Plain and simple?

Sadly, it isn’t the case with Kannada cinema and television industry.

It runs on Taliban-like fatwas to TV channels to not air the dubbed content than going by the merits/demerits of demand for dubbed content in the market. It runs by sucking tax payers money in the form of subsidies offered to almost 60% of films made every year than going through the test of markets. And it also runs on blaming government for its failures day in and day out.

The Kannada cinema and television industry has failed to internalise the fact that it is a for-profit industry run by private individuals and not some government-funded public goods with a charitable motive.

The Kannada film industry, though small in size has bigger social impact when it comes to cinema as a linguistic register. Kannada films have a decisive role in keeping the language on the tongues of young Kannadigas.

The undemocratic and unconstitutional ban on dubbing has made sure that in a fast globalising world, Kannadigas are left with very little choice of knowledge and entertainment shows offered in Kannada. Except for the boring soap operas, fighting news channels, and macchu-kocchu movies, I do not have anything in Kannada that tickles my senses.

The Telugu, Tamil and Hindi cinema industries where no such dubbing ban exists, have way bigger market size in both cinema and television sector and are offering clear lessons on the importance of doing away with such undemocratic bans.

The media in Karnataka have a bigger role in building a narrative of how this ban on dubbing is turning out to be detrimental for the future of Kannada by engaging in debates, discussions involving everyone,most importantly the consumer who holds the purse strings deciding the future of everyone involved.