The Talibanisation of Kannada cinema—Part II

VASANT SHETTY writes from Bangalore: Bangalore is home to “Sandalwood”, the Kannada film industry.

The industry produces 120-130 movies an year and, like other major film industries in India, has about a 10% success rate.

Unfortunately, unlike other film industries, Sandalwood is known for banning dubbing of content to Kannada.

This unofficial ban on dubbing content effectively isolates Kannadigas who know only Kannada (approximately there are 2.5 to3 crore Kannadigas who know only Kannada and no other language) from the sea of knowledge and entertainment that exists in other languages.

We must note that the ban has no legal sanctity and is put in place by a private trade bodies like Karnataka film chamber of commerce (KFCC) and other similar organizations.

The private ban was put in place six decades ago in order to give boost to the then ailing Kannada film industry under the aegis of the legendary actor Dr Raj Kumar. The protectionist measure helped the novice industry to scale from less than 10 films a year to more than 100 films a year.

But like other typical protectionist schemes, the continued “PRIVATE” protection has resulted in isolating Kannadigas from receiving worldly knowledge in visual form and is fast turning counter-productive from the view point of increasing language’s reach.

Several past attempts by concerned individuals to debate the unconstitutional ban on dubbing was shot down in the guise of protecting of language and culture by vested interests.

Last year when the Hindi cinema actor Aamir Khan set out to do a social awareness program called Satyameva Jayate, he wanted to make this program available in most Indian languages using the means of dubbing.

In Kannada, the general entertainment channel Suvarna was planning to air this program in Kannada and as soon as the news broke out, sundry trade organisations affiliated to Kannada film and TV industry made sure that Suvarna channel backed off from that idea.

When Suvarna put the first episode of  Kannada version on YouTube, it received more than 30,000 views in 24 hours and strangely the very next day the video was pulled out from the internet too. Cartels from the film and TV industry were suspected to be behind this.

Amidst all this, Competition Commission of India (CCI) entered the scene after a complaint was lodged with it on the grounds that the ban violates the freedom of choice of a Kannadiga consumer from watching the best of entertainment and knowledge programs from across the world in his mother tongue.

The dubbing debate seems to have entered the last leg with recent media reports (Udayavani, 7 January) indicating that the CCI has come down very heavily on all associations affiliated to Kannada film and television industry for their blatant anti-consumer and anti-competition actions. This has triggered raging debates on Kannada TV and social media about pros and cons of dubbing once again.

On a serious note, is there anything to debate at all?

It’s an open and shut case. Whoever wants to see original content, they should have their choice, and whoever wants to see dubbed content, they should have their choice too.

In this context, we are running a petition requesting the chief minister of Karnataka and his administration to ensure that the citizens of Karnataka are able to exercise their freedom of choice.

I request all those individuals who believe in liberty, freedom of choice, democracy and rule of law to sign this petition and show your support for this people’s cause.

Sign the petition here:

Also read: The Talibanisation of Kannada cinema and television

An open letter to Aamir Khan, from a Kannadiga

What the Darshan‘s brutality says about Scandalwood