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Kiccha 46 & Yash 19: Will Bilinguals become the new norm for Kannada superstars?

In this piece, we take a deep look into the changing landscape of Kannada cinema and how its true 'identity' and ethos could be challenged because of the pan-India phenomenon

Kiccha 46 & Yash 19: Will Bilinguals become the new norm for Kannada superstars?
Kiccha 46 & Yash 19: Will Bilinguals become the new norm for Kannada superstars?
  • Swaroop Kodur

Last Updated: 04.05 PM, May 28, 2023


Two huge concerns troubling the Kannada cinema patrons at the moment are Yash 19 and Kiccha 46. As these tentative titles suggest, two of the biggest superstars, Yash and Kiccha Sudeep, have two massive announcements in store and should you look up social media for the relevant 'hashtags', you will that the fans, industry trackers and film aficionados in general are currently deeply engrossed in discussions surrounding these two projects. The information available on these films seems speculative, mind you, but the chatter and the buzz created is in the ardent hope of a formal confirmation that is expected to arrive anytime now to put all the unease and uncertainty to rest. 

What seems almost certain though, going by the same speculations doing the rounds currently, is that both actors are eyeing non-Kannada filmmakers for their respective upcoming films. Sudeep, if the latest report is to be believed, will be announcing his next on June 1 with debutant Tamil director Vijay Karthikeyan, with Kabali and Karnan producer Kalaippuli S. Thanu backing it. Yash, on the other hand, is linked to Malayalam filmmaker and actress Geetu Mohandas' next which some believe to be a gangster drama. And although this following bit stands unconfirmed, one can expect both these projects to be bilinguals that do not fully qualify as Kannada films.

So, would that mean that bilingual films are slowly becoming the norm for Kannada stars? In an era driven by the pan-Indian phenomenon, actors are steadily sourcing projects that have the capacity to cater to a much wider audience which is not strictly bound by a language. Telugu superstar Prabhas has the much-awaited Hindi film Adipurush up for release and his other mega project Project K, directed by Telugu filmmaker Nag Ashwin, has Bollywood stars Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan and Disha Patani. Prashanth Neel, having scored three big hits in his homeland of Karnataka, is billed to direct two back-to-back Telugu films in the form of Salaar and NTR 31. His main collaborator so far, Hombale Films, is producing the former and in the same vein has multiple Tamil and Malayalam projects in the works. 

The pattern is increasingly growing conspicuous for Kannada cinema and the recent success of KGF 2 and Kantara across the country provides a lot of the context. Both films, made in Kannada by local talent, found equal (if not more) success outside Karnataka during their respective theatrical runs and there's no denying that the accomplishments become all that sweeter when a wider audience comes attached. As a result, we see crossover cinema becoming more popular and talents getting exchanged a lot more than usual, thus rendering the idea of 'cultural identity' not as important anymore. 

It isn't to say that filmmakers do not lay the necessary focus on the origins, the politics and the general identity of their stories anymore. Ace Tamil filmmaker Mani Ratnam proved with his two Ponniyin Selvan films that the emphasis on the Tamil culture, its nativity and 'identity' is as crucial to the story as are the characters, the interplay of the emotions and the plot. That said, again, one cannot deny the fact that the current big-screen experience lures its audience through peripheral entertainment and nothing more. 

But we are digressing. The point to ponder is whether, or not, Kannada's big-league actors are facing a dearth of Kannada filmmakers who can deliver on the needs and expectations of their fans. Kiccha Sudeep is closely associated with Anup Bhandari, one of the brightest talents in business today, and the duo is expected to work on Billa Ranga Baashaa and Ashwatthama, two large-canvas projects, in the future. But could it be that he is left with very few options and is forced to seek out opportunities from other industries? Sudeep is also associated with Tamil filmmakers Cheran and Venkat Prabhu with whom he is expected to work soon after he wraps up other commitments.

Yash, too, is believably looking to do something more enterprising compared to his previous film KGF 2 and is rumoured to work with a Malayalam filmmaker in Geetu Mohandas. Both Kiccha 46 and Yash 19, thereby, will most certainly be bilingual films.

On the other hand, we see superstars like Darshan Thoogudeepa sticking to his guns and asserting time & again that he will not venture outside Kannada cinema at any cast. "I don't believe in this pan-India stuff," he had said in an interview with OTTplay. Shiva Rajkumar, who is in his 38th year as an actor, is another shining example of a marquee star who has limited himself to the Kannada Film Industry. However, he recently announced that he will be working with Telugu veteran Nandamuri Balakrishna as a producer for a rumoured two-part project that will also include superstar Rajinikanth. That project, too, is quite likely to be a bilingual or a pan-India film. Real Star Upendra, though a Kannada actor to his fans, has acted in a number of Telugu films over the years. 


In parallel, Rakshit and Rishab have been highly vocal and firm about working with local talent which is an integral part of their ecosystem. A lot of the films backed by both are executed by those who have previously worked as associate directors or screenwriters. Whereas Raj B. Shetty., the third R of this RRR trio, is currently shooting for his Malayalam debut Rudhiram alongside Aparna Balamurali and does not seem to be completely restricted to Kannada cinema alone at the moment.

So, the bottom line could be soon drawn that Kannada superstars will more proactively seek out talent and opportunities from outside the industry. This may not be a rampant change but one that will most likely be deceptively present among us. Simultaneously, the Rakshits and the Rishabs could be instrumental in ensuring that the Kannada Film Industry remains as sanctimonious as possible and their work is likely to determine or represent the true identity of the 'Kannada' ethos.