The Kannada film fraternity is desperately awaiting the gala ceremony hosted by the Karnataka government to confer its prestigious annual State Film Awards for the past five years.
But it seems that Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, who recently announced a 100% tax exemption for “The Kashmir Files”, in addition to participating in the Bengaluru International Film Festival (Biffes), does not have time to listen to Kannada cinema misfortunes and bestow the announced awards.
Five years ago, Siddaramaiah, who was the leader of Congress, made a culturally historic announcement that the Karnataka State Film Awards would be presented annually on April 24 (birthday of the Kannada matinee idol, the Dr. Rajkumar). He made this promise when presenting the awards for 2014 and 2015. Siddaramaiah kept his promise and presented the awards for 2016 on April 24, 2017.
The government of Karnataka had constituted expert committees to select the qualitative Kannada films and other sub-regional films produced in Karnataka for 2017 and 2018. The committee had submitted a list of films and film personalities chosen for the award . But the artists have not yet received their awards.
While the government blames Covid-19 and legal complications for not issuing awards for 2017 and 2018, the film fraternity disputes that claim. Few winners claim that “it is a known fact that the Covid-19 epidemic occurred at the beginning of 2020”.
Interestingly, the expert committees set up by the government have yet to watch and select the films produced and released in 2019, 2020 and 2021. The film fraternity is upset with the government for its apathetic attitude towards Kannada cinema.
Some filmmakers, whose films were chosen for the awards in 2017 and 2018, blame film bodies, including the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce, Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy and Karnataka Film Artists’ Association (KFAA), for not not effectively impress the government.
Kudlu Ramakrishna, the award-winning director in 2017, says: “The winners may have forgotten the fact that their films were declared winners. A filmmaker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, regretted that “the chief minister is busy watching ‘The Kashmir Files’ and pleasing his constituency. He doesn’t have time to think about it.”
The film fraternity believes that the Kannada cinema, which ranks fifth in terms of annual film production in India, is probably not a priority for the Department of Information and Public Relations, which controls the cinema and its activities. “There is a lack of will and commitment to respect and honor cinema, which is the most powerful medium,” national award-winning filmmaker BS Lingadevaru says, citing Kerala, where the government celebrates cinema.
“The Kerala state government, which supports cinema more than any other government in the country, should be a role model for Karnataka. Even when the state was reeling under the impact of the pandemic, the government was handing out awards to artists,” he pointed out. Many filmmakers have sought to find out why Kerala did not become a model for Karnataka.
“In the interest of Kannada cinema, the awards must be given on time. It is time for the films representing the bodies including the Academy to take notice of the issue and push the government to act on the issue,” observes renowned filmmaker P Sheshadri.
“The government has completely neglected Kannada cinema and the sad state of the annual awards is a testament to our allegation, regrets Rockline Venkatesh, Secretary, KFAA and veteran film producer.
Mr. Jayaraj, president of KFCC, refuted the allegations that the association filed to communicate with the government on this matter. “We have submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister. He assured me to examine it”.
Responding to the question, a senior official from the Department of Information and Public Relations said, “Preparations are underway to present the awards for 2017 and 2018 on April 24. But a movie is troubled by a court case and the government does its best. leave the stay”. If the government’s version has an iota of truth to it, then the movie fraternity can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
(The author is a senior journalist based in Bengaluru).