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Thursday, November 30 2023
Indian Cinema

Tulu cinema: Journey from inception to present

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Indian cinema enjoys a magnificent status in the world cinema as it produces the highest number of cinemas in different languages every year, thus portraying the various elements of culture even in languages spoken by minorities. Tulu cinema, also known as Coastalwood is a part of Indian cinema.

Late Kadandale Narayana Taylor or popularly known as K. N Taylor can be considered the pioneer of Tulu film industry. For a language native to about two million people, the main audience for Tulu films is limited to two districts, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi. Tulu is prevalent in the Tulunadu region consisting of Coastal Karnataka and some parts of Kerala. According to the Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, published by UNESCO, Tulu is now considered a vulnerable language. In the fight for language recognition, the cinema has been a pillar of strength.

Long back theatre was famous in Tulunadu (Mangalore, Udupi, Kasargod). There used to be various drama troupes, and lot of popular dramas during the time, which is alive even today to an extent. Tulu people mostly like comedy dramas.

Tulu film-making started in 1971, when the first tulu film “Enna Thangadi” was released.

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This film was released in theatres across the Tulunadu region. But currently the Tulu film industry has grown to such an extent that the films are being released simultaneously in Mangaluru, Udupi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Gulf countries.

Before 2014, it was not every year that a Tulu film was made and released. Back then, Tulu films had only limited theatres. Even producers were not ready to invest on it. Also pre-2014, the films released either had social, emotional or historical content that failed to reach the audience. They were more like dramas and less like movies.

It can be seen that in the span of 40 years of Tulu film industry only as many as 40 films have been released. The floodgates for Coastalwood opened in 2011, with the release of the film “Oriyardori Asal”. The film turned out to be the biggest hit in Tulu film history to date. After that, ‘Chaali Polilu’ is the longest-running film in Tulu film industry. This movie has the distinction of being the highest grossing film in the Tulu film industry. It has successfully completed 470 days at PVR Cinemas in Mangalore. In the five years since then 21 films have been made. Another movie “Pingara” won National Award for best Tulu film. “Madime” was the first Tulu movie which was remade in Marathi. Ashwini Kotian became the first female director of the Tulu film industry with the film, ‘Namma Kudla’. The critically acclaimed Tulu film “Suddha” won the award for the best Indian Film at the “Osian’s Cinefan Festival of Asia and Arab Cinema” held in New Delhi in 2006. The success of ‘Oriyardori Asal’ and ‘Chaali Polilu’ gave new life to film industry. Both were comedy movies, and from the movies’ success other actors and producers understood that Tulu people needed light movies than serious drama and also were craving for change.

After 2014 continuously many movies were released. This year, Tulu film industry which is celebrating its 50th anniversary has witnessed the release of 115 films so far. Not only in theatres but also in OTT platform Tulu movies have got released. The Tulu movie made during pandemic and first to enter into OTT platform was “Umil”.

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With a modest budget of Rs. 40 lakh to Rs. 60 lakh, Tulu films stood out with their touch of reality. Despite many setbacks, the Tulu film industry takes pride in introducing many skilled technicians, talented directors and actors. Without sticking to formula that works for audience at a time, if the industry now dares to dream with the artistic talent galore the coastal region has, the Tulu film world is here to make and leave a indelible mark.

Image source: PublicDomain Pictures by Pixabay 

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Thilak T. Shetty

The author is a BA Sociology  graduate. He is into poetry and literature. His varied interests include Literature, Music, Culture, Politics, Philosophy And Nationalism studies.

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