From psychological thrillers, neo-noir crime and horror to touching stories about father-son relationships, Indie Kannada films have struck it big in recent years. These films, made on small budgets and with strong performances, are captivating audiences across the world.
Here are ten top contemporary Kannada films that you should watch; some of which are available online, with English subtitles.
- lucia (2013)
Writer/Director – Pawan Kumar
This is a psychological thriller about an insomniac at a decrepit cinema, who is tricked into buying a drug, lucia, that makes all of his desires come true in his dreams. The drug begins to blur the lines between fantasy and reality, as his life enters a delirious, turbulent ride.
Set in the bustling metropolis of Bengaluru, lucia is the Kannada film industry's first crowd-funded film and the forerunner in its indie scene. It received wide international acclaim after its premiere at the london Indian Film Festival, 2013, where it won the Best Film Audience Choice Award. It was also on the shortlist for India's submission to the Academy Award for Best Foreign language Film, 2013.
2. Thithi (2015)
Director: Raam Reddy
Thithi is a light-hearted comedy-drama, about the reaction of three generations of sons to the death of the 101-year-old patriarch of the family, a man named 'Century' Gowda. The three sons include a nonchalant, brandy-swinging son, a scheming, materialistic grand-son, and a pre-pubescent, love-struck great-grandson. Set in a village in Mandya district, the three story lines converge at Century Gowda's 'thithi', or the 11th & final day of the funeral.
This critically acclaimed film premiered at the 68th locarno International Film Festival in 2015, where it won the Golden leopard in the 'Filmmakers of the Present' category as well as the First Feature award.
Thithi is available on Netflix, with subtitles.
3. U Turn (2016)
Director: Pawan Kumar
This film holds the rare distinction of having directly brought about a change. It was inspired by the Richmond Circle flyover in Bengaluru, perhaps the only one in the world to have a traffic signal! The film is about a journalist's investigation into traffic violators on the flyover, who move the blocks dividing the road, to take a convenient U-turn. This draws her into a deep web of extraordinary events.
As the movie highlighted the frequent accidents caused by motorists taking U turns, the police constructed a meridian to stop these infractions. A nice turnaround for motorists in nammaBengaluru!
The film is on Netflix, with English subtitles.
4. Ulidavaru Kandanthe (2014)
Director: Rakshit Shetty
This neo-noir crime film is set in the fishing town of Malpe, a port just outside of Udupi, during the festival of Janmashthami. It captures the colourful pageantry of 'huli vesha' dancers (they are dressed as tigers). The celebration that fills the air masks a deep, dark crime. A murder has been committed, and the lines between truth and lies are blurred. A journalist sets out to uncover the facts, through perspectives of five different people, each with a different version of what happened.
Rakshit Shetty, who directed, and played the lead role in the film, received critical acclaim for both. Ulidavaru Kandanthe beautifully captures the character and culture of Mangalore, and is worth a watch just for that.
5. Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu (2016)
Director: Hemanth Rao
Venkob Rao, a middle-class man suffering from Alzheimer's, goes missing in Bengaluru. His career-driven son, Shiva is forced to put his ambitions on hold, as he searches for his father. Sahana, a doctor who takes care of Venkob Rao also gets involved. In his search for his father, Shiva ends up finding a lot more than he had set out for.
This is a beautifully crafted tale, exploring the idea of lost and found on various levels. Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu is regarded as one of the best Kannada films from 2016.
The film is available on Hotstar.
6. lifeu Ishtene (2011)
IMDb Rating – 7.1/10
Director: Pawan Kumar
The directorial debut of Pawan Kumar, lifeu Ishtene is a comedy film, which explores the ideas of love and loss. Vishal, a carefree youngster is serious only about his career in music. This becomes a problem for him when he has to choose between music and the love of his life, Nandini. When he is unable to commit to her, she is forced to marry someone else. He then moves on, and falls in love with Rashmi, a journalism aspirant. But this relationship too, is doomed to failure.
The film was praised for its realistic portrayal of people, and specifically for its treatment of female characters.
7. Kirik Party (2016)
IMDb Rating: 9/10
Director: Rishab Shetty
One of the biggest Kannada films from 2016, Kirik Party is a coming-of-age film that tells the story of a bunch of students who have just joined an engineering college. Played by Rakshit Shetty, Karna, the protagonist is a boy from a small town. Along with his gang of trouble-makers, he creates a good deal of mischief in college, till love and heartbreak force him to mature as a human being.
The film had received high praise for the style of its treatment, and for the light hearted humour that makes it a pleasant watch. No wonder then, that it went on to become the second highest grossing Kannada film ever produced.
8. RangiTaranga (2015)
IMDb Rating: 8.8/10
Director: Anup Bhandari
RangiTaranga is set in Kamarottu, a fictional village in the Tulunadu region of Karnataka. In this mystery thriller, Indu, and her husband Gautam are in their ancestral village of Kamarottu to perform a ritual that wards off evil spirits. But the film takes a spine-chilling turn when Indu goes missing, and Gautam finds himself on the trail of a mysterious crime in his hunt for her. Shot in parts of Mysuru, Bengaluru, Madikeri, Puttur, Sira, Ottapalam, Alappuzha, and Ooty, the film takes the viewer on a visual journey through Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
RangiTaranga had received an overwhelming response from critics and audiences alike. In fact, it made it to the list of productions eligible for the 88th Academy Awards but did not make it into the nomination list.
9. Kendasampige (2015)
IMDb Rating: 8.5/10
Director: Duniya Soori
Essentially a love story, the film is the tragic tale of Ravindra, an office boy, and Gowri, his boss's daughter. But there is much more to it than just the poor-boy-meets-rich-girl angle. The film's narrative includes drugs, mafia, a thrilling man-hunt, and an ending that is sure to move a stone to tears.
The film is set to have two more parts; a prequel titled Kaage Bangara, and a third part titledBlack Magic.
10. Karvva (2016)
IMDb Rating: 7.7/10
Karvva is a horror film that is sure to give its audience gooseflesh. The film is set in a worn down mansion, rumoured to be haunted. There are two linear stories; one of a documentary film crew trying to debunk the myth of the house, and the other of a spoilt rich kid, who ends up at the house in his attempt to rescue his sister who has been kidnapped. The two stories have a hair-raising connection, that is best left unspoilt.