Kannada films running houseful in Kerala — A good sign for acceptance of quality non-Malayalam movies

Kannada films have a good audience base in the Kasargod district which lies in the northern part of Kerala bordering Karnataka.

ByArjun Ramachandran

Published Oct 07, 2023 | 10:00 AMUpdatedOct 07, 2023 | 10:55 AM

Kannada films in Kerala

The Vismaya Theatre in Kerala’s Perinthalmanna recently saw a houseful board hanging to its gates for almost every show. The cinema hall was screening the Malayalam version of the Kannada movie Toby, starring Raj B Shetty in the lead.

Toby is an action drama directed by debutant Basil Alchalakkal and written by Raj B Shetty.

Interestingly, Perinthalmanna is a tier-2 city in northern Kerala where the audience is known for their love for commercial films.

Overwhelmed by the response in Kerala, Kannada actor Raj B Shetty took to Instagram to share a picture of the “houseful board” and to thank the Malayali audience for appreciating his film. Toby won rave reviews in Karnataka too.

The actor came to Kochi to promote his flick. Post-release, he visited some theatres in Kerala where the movie was screened and was amazed by the love the viewers showered on his work.

The Raj B Shetty-starrer, released on 22 September, witnessed good occupancy in multiplexes across Kerala.

Well, this surely is a huge recognition for Kannada films in Kerala where audiences are hitherto more familiar with Tamil films.

Kannada films have a good audience base in the Kasargod district which lies in the northern part of Kerala bordering Karnataka. People from Kasargod often visit Mangalore to watch Kannada movies.

Interestingly, the Kannada blockbuster Kantara (2022) registered good collections in Kasargod. The makers released the Malayalam version in Kerala after a while and it too did decent business at the box office.

Related: Review: Raj B Shetty as ‘Toby’ leaves you ‘speechless’

Malayalees’ love for Kannada films

The Kannada film industry rose to fame outside Karnataka with the success of Yash’s KGF 1 (2018). The movie was also a super hit in Kerala.

Interestingly, Yash’s KGF 2 and the Tamil movie Beast were in the race for Vishu in 2022 in the State.

777 Charlie had a good collection in Kerala

‘777 Charlie’ had a good collection in Kerala. (Supplied)

This became a point of discussion in Mollywood with actor Dhyan Sreenivasan highlighting this topic in many of his interviews. He raised a serious concern that Malayalam movies weren’t getting enough theatres as big-budget non-Malayalam films were simultaneously hitting the screens in Kerala.

Nevertheless, actor Prithviraj Sukumaran has always been vocal about Kannada films and his friendship with actors in other industries.

He along with his friend Listin Stephen, a leading producer in Malayalam, distributed Kantara and 777 Charlie (2022) in Kerala. Both movies did well in the State. Indeed, Kantara had a magnificent run in theatres.

Following this, Kichha Sudeep’s Vikrant Rona (2022) and Upendra’s Kabzaa (2023) were also released in Kerala. But these films didn’t do well at the Malayalam box office.

Even though Kannada films are released in multiplexes in Kochi, they won’t get a good run as Malayali audiences aren’t well aware of these films. However, the emergence of OTT has made people watch new Kannada films and discussions happening on social media.

Earlier, Kannada movies like Thithi (2015), Ondu Motteye Kathe (2017), and Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana (2021) won huge applause from Malayali film buffs after they were premiered on OTT platforms.

Even Hostel Hudugaru Bekagiddare (2023), after its premiere on Zee 5, is drawing a good response from the Malayali audience.

Also Read: Here’s why releasing small budget films is a major challenge in Kollywood

Malayalam remakes of Kannada films

Careful is a remake Kannada hit U-turn

‘Careful’ is a remake Kannada hit ‘U-turn’. (Facebook)

A few Kannada films were remade into Malayalam as they received a good response in the Kannada-speaking State.

Pawan Kumar’s critically acclaimed U-Turn (2016) was remade into Malayalam by VK Prakash as Careful (2017). 

Similarly, Raj B Shetty’s Ondu Motteye Kathe was remade as Thamaasha (2019) by Ashraf Hamza. The remake drew critical acclaim.

Vinay Forrt and Chinnu Chandni, who played the lead roles, won huge appreciation from Malayali audiences for their spellbinding performances.

The Malayalam movie Mazhavillu (1999), starring Kunchacko Boban and Preeti Jhangiani, was a remake of the Kannada film Amrutha Varshini (1997). The Malayalam version didn’t do well at the box office but the songs topped the chartbusters for a long time.

Similarly, Pakalum Paathiravum (2023), a remake of Aa Karaala Ratri (2018), too didn’t fare well at the Kerala box office.

In both cases, the originals were blockbuster hits in Karnataka.

Also Read: As ‘2018’ hopes for the Oscars 2024, a recap of Malayalam films selected for the Academy Awards

Popularity and marketing

While Kerala has had a good market for Tamil films for a long time, this isn’t the case with Telugu and Kannada movies.

Toby was released by Wayfarer Films in Kerala

‘Toby’ was released by Wayfarer Films in Kerala. (Supplied)

Though many Tamil films have been hitting the screens in Kerala for several years, not all Kollywood actors visit the State for promotions.

But, interestingly, the entire star cast of Ponniyin Selvan 1 (2022) and Ponniyin Selvan 2 (2023) series visited Kerala’s Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram for promotional activities which helped the periodical flick to a great extent.

The owner of a Kochi-based theatre told South First that he charted Toby in his cinema hall as it had good reviews in Kannada and the lead actor Raj B Shetty won the confidence of the audience by paying a visit to Kochi for promotions.

On one such visit to the theatres in Kerala, Raj B Shetty admitted that he didn’t expect such a good response from the Malayali audience. “The success of Toby came as a huge responsibility for me to do more content-oriented films,” he said.

Kannada actor-director Rishab Shetty visited Kochi to promote Kantara. Similarly, Rakshit Shetty and Raj B Shetty jointly gave interviews in Kerala ahead of the release of their film 777 Charlie, which saw good collections.

Well, a healthy relationship among the makers from different industries will result in releasing the films in different languages and reaching a wider audience.

Also Read: It’s high time Malayalam filmmakers thought beyond ‘hype’!