Kannada film industry first half 2024: High on content, low on box office

The first half of 2024 has many critically acclaimed films that garnered praise, but the Kannada film industry is still looking for that elusive blockbuster.

BySunayana Suresh

Published Jun 13, 2024 | 9:15 AM Updated Jun 20, 2024 | 11:52 PM

A collage of stills from Kannada films that were released in 2024. (Supplied)

If the year 2023 ended on a big high for the Kannada film industry with the super success of Kaatera that even trickled into 2024, the following six months of 2024 have been a polar opposite with no big blockbuster or superhit to write home about.

There has been one film to mark as a hit, while a few others to tick as above-average grossers, but when one sees the list has crossed over 100 releases in just over five months, the percentage of success is not as reassuring.

While 2022, with the noise created by KGF: Chapter 2, Kantara, Vikrant Rona, and 777 Charlie, brought the spotlight to Kannada films, the performance hasn’t matched it thereafter. The only success seen at the box office is with the re-release of a few films, which drew packed houses.

The other major successes were all seen once the films were released on OTT. This has led to many discussions and debates on the revival of the Kannada film industry.

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Big names, not-so-big numbers

The big releases in the first half of 2024 included Karataka Damanaka, Yuva, Ranganayaka, Bachelor Party, The Judgement, O2, and Upadhyaksha. These releases had either big banners, directors, or stars, and sometimes all of them together.

A poster of 'O2'.

A poster of ‘O2’. (X)

The two biggest names were Karataka Damanaka, which had the complete package of a big director—Yogaraj Bhat, big stars—Shivarajkumar and Prabhudheva—and a celebrated producer—Rockline Venkatesh. The other big release was Yuva, which was the much-hyped launch of Yuva Rajkumar, which saw the collaboration of Hombale Films and Santhosh Ananddram yet again.

Among these, Upadhyaksha fared reasonably well. It was the launch of Chikkanna from a mainstream comic actor to a hero and was also a spin-off from the Adhyaksha (2014) franchise.

In comparison to Upadhyaksha, the rest of the big releases were all either average or below-average grossers. Karataka Damanaka and Ranganayaka failed to meet the expectations both critically and commercially.

Yuva, which saw the makers position the lead actor Yuva as the heir apparent to the late Puneeth Rajkumar, had mixed reviews and an OK run, unlike the blockbuster it was expected to be and there hasn’t been an announcement of Yuva’s next project either.

Ranganayaka, which brought back the hit combination of Guruprasad and Jaggesh, was a washout at the box office, with even die-hard fans of the star rejecting the film that was gimmicky and laced with double entendres.

Rakshit Shetty’s production house tried to bring forth the bromance genre with Bachelor Party, but the Hangover (2009)-esque caper failed to create magic at the box office. The super hit combination of Sathish Ninasam and Rachita Ram also failed to woo audiences with their outing in Matinee.

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Crazy Star V Ravichandran’s return as a lawyer with The Judgement had an average run. PRK Productions had the release of O2 led by Ashika Ranganath that managed to woo critics and a sizeable amount of fans, giving it a decent run at the box office.

'The Judgement' poster. (X)

‘The Judgement’ poster. (X)

Avatara Purusha 2, the second installment of the Suni and Pushkara Mallikarjunaiah collaboration Avatara Purusha (2022), was a washout at the box office, with fans not finding the film thrilling or entertaining enough. Suni’s other film Ondu Sarala Prema Kathe, which starred Vinay Rajkumar in the lead, drew better acclaim critically and at the box office.

Small wonders hog the spotlight

On the other hand, the the Kannada film industry saw many smaller films garner critical acclaim and sometimes even decent box office run. These content-rich films managed to woo the critics, but unlike their contemporaries in the Malayalam film industry, they did not manage to garner the numbers at the box office that should have ideally.

As expected, these films ended up becoming bigger toasts among Kannada film fans once they were released on streaming platforms.

Among those that managed to gather some momentum at the box office were Blink, Shakhahaari, and Moorane Krishnappa. These films saw talented character artistes like Rangayana Raghu, Gopalkrishna Deshpande, and Sampath Maithreya come to the fore and garner acclaim.

Blink also saw Dheekshith Shetty of Dia (2020) fame return with a bang to Kannada films, after his successful foray into the Telugu film industry over the past couple of years. These three films made it to the list of the best releases of the year lists of many critics and film aficionados.

The other big critically acclaimed films of the first half included Prithvi Konanur’s highly volatile teen drama Hadinelentu which touched on caste and class issues; Utsav Gonwar’s Photo which spoke about the problems that migrants faced during the lockdown; Raghu Shastry’s Lineman that had a heartwarming message of conservation and Champa Shetty’s literary adaptation Koli Esru. While all of these films managed to woo critics and a small section of discerning film audiences, they did not manage to win the corresponding acclaim in terms of box office.

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Moorane Krishnappa is a comedy entertainer

‘Moorane Krishnappa’ is a comedy entertainer. (X)

Re-released films steal the show

If at all any films were audience magnets in 2024 in Kannada, then those were the blockbusters that were re-released. The biggest among all of these was Jackie (2010), which was released by PRK Productions in collaboration with KRG Studios to celebrate late Puneeth Rajkumar’s birth anniversary.

Along with this, the other big re-release that drew packed houses and hysteria among crowds was Upendra’s cult directorial film A (1998). Other films that saw a re-release included Power (2014) and Anjani Putra (2017), as well as the late Dr Vishnuvardhan’s Krishna Nee Begane Baro (1986).

Given that Upendra is returning to direction with UI, which is slated to release later this year, there are talks that there could be the possibility of the re-release of his film Upendra once again, too. Exhibitors say that if the dismal run from the first half continues in the second half as well, then there could be a chance of more films from the previous years finding their way to cinema halls this year.

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A starry second half ahead

A poster of the film UI

‘UI’ poster. (X)

While there seems to be a lull at the box office for Kannada films thus far in 2024, the second half has more hope as there are many starry films lined up. These include Sudeep’s Max, Upendra’s UI, Shivarajkumar’s Bhairathi Ranagal, Dhruva Sarja’s Martin and KD, Dhananjaya’s Kotee, Vijaya Kumar’s Bheema and Sriimurali’s Bagheera, among others.

There are quite a few interesting content-rich films from known names and newcomers too lined up, which gives more hope for the viewers that all is not lost as yet and the industry could bounce back with good content and numbers in tandem in the second half of 2024.

(Edited by S Subhakeerthana)