Kannada cinema, also known as Sandalwood is the segment of Indian cinema  dedicated to the production of motion pictures in the Kannada language widely spoken in the state of Karnataka. The 1934 film Sati Sulochana directed by Y. V. Rao was the first talkie film in the Kannada language. It is also the first film starring Subbaiah Naidu, and was the first motion picture screened in the erstwhile Mysore Kingdom. The film was produced by Chamanlal Doongaji who in 1932 founded South India Movietone in Bengaluru.
|No. of screens||650 Single-screens in Karnataka|
|Produced feature films (2018)|
Major Literary works have been adapted to the Kannada screen such as B. V. Karanth's Chomana Dudi (1975), Girish Karnad's Kaadu (1973), Pattabhirama Reddy's Samskara (1970) (based on a novel by U. R. Ananthamurthy), which won Bronze Leopard at Locarno International Film Festival, and T. S. Nagabharana's Mysuru Mallige (based on the works of acclaimed poet K. S. Narasimhaswamy).
Kannada cinema is known for producing experimental works which received global and critical acclaim such as Girish Kasaravalli's Ghatashraddha (1977) which won the Ducats Award at the Manneham Film Festival Germany, and Dweepa (2002), which won Best Film at Moscow International Film Festival, Singeetam Srinivasa Rao's silent film Pushpaka Vimana (1987), screened at the Cannes Film Festival, Ram Gopal Varma's docudrama Killing Veerappan (2016), and Prashanth Neel's Historical period drama, K.G.F: Chapter 1 (2018), which became the first Kannada language film to have grossed ₹250 crores worldwide at the box office.
In 1934, the first Kannada talkie, Sati Sulochana, appeared in theatres, followed by Bhakta Dhruva (aka Dhruva Kumar). Sati Sulochana was shot in Kolhapur at the Chatrapathi studio; most filming, sound recording, and post-production was done in Chennai.
In 1949, Honnappa Bhagavathar, who had earlier acted in Gubbi Veeranna's films, produced Bhakta Kumbara and starred in the lead role along with Pandaribai. In 1955, Bhagavathar again produced a Kannada film, Mahakavi Kalidasa, in which he introduced actress B. Saroja Devi. B. S. Ranga was an Indian photographer, actor, producer and director made many landmark movies in Kannada, under Vikram Studios.
Matinee idol, Rajkumar entered Kannada cinema after his long stint as a dramatist with Gubbi Veeranna's Gubbi Drama Company, which he joined at the age of eight, before he got his first break as a lead in the 1954 film Bedara Kannappa.
He went on to essay a variety of roles and excelling in portraying mythological and historical characters in films such as Bhakta Kanakadasa (1960), Ranadheera Kanteerava (1960), Satya Harishchandra (1965), Immadi Pulikeshi (1967), Sri Krishnadevaraya (1970), Bhakta Kumbara (1974), Mayura (1975), Babruvahana (1977) and Bhakta Prahlada (1983). His wife Parvathamma Rajkumar founded Film production and distribution company, Vajreshwari Combines.
Method actor Shankar Nag received the inaugural IFFI Best Actor Award (Male): Silver Peacock Award" at the 7th International Film Festival of India for his work in the film Ondanondu Kaladalli. He is the younger brother of actor Anant Nag. M. V. Vasudeva Rao was starred in over 200 films in his career; however, post Chomana Dudi, he only played minor roles.
Vishnuvardhan entered Kannada cinema with the National Award-winning movie Vamshavruksha (1972) directed by Girish Karnad based on the novel written by S. L. Bhyrappa. His first lead role was in Naagarahaavu, directed by Puttanna Kanagal and based on a novel by T. R. Subba Rao. It was the first in Kannada film history to complete 100 days in three main theatres of Bangalore. In his 37-year career, he has played a variety of roles in more than 200 films.
With his debut in Puttanna Kanagal's National Award-winning Kannada film Naagarahaavu (1972), Ambareesh's acting career commenced with a brief phase of portraying antagonistic and supporting characters. After establishing himself as a lead actor portraying rebellious characters on screen in a number of commercially successful films, he earned the moniker "rebel star". He also earned the nickname Mandyada Gandu (English: Man of Mandya)
B. Saroja Devi is One of the most successful female leads in the history of Indian cinema, she acted in around 200 films in over six decades. She is known by the epithets "Abinaya Saraswathi" (Saraswathi of acting) in Kannada and "Kannadathu Paingili" (Kannada's Parrot) in Tamil.
Kannada Cinema also majorly contributed to the Parallel cinema movement of India. Directors like Girish Kasaravalli, Girish Karnad, G. V. Iyer were the early names to join the movement. T. S. Nagabharana and BV Karanth were also popular names in the movement. Puttanna Kanagal's films were however considered as a bridge between the Mainstream and the Parallel Cinema.
Prakash Raj began his acting career with Doordarshan serials such as Bisilu Kudure (Kannada) and Guddada Bhootha (Tulu and Kannada). He later took up supporting roles in Kannada films such as Ramachari, Ranadheera, Nishkarsha and Lockup Death. He was noticed for his dialogue delivery and histrionics. His breakthrough role came in Harakeya Kuri, directed by K. S. L. Swamy starring Vishnuvardhan, with whom he had acted in other films such as Mithileya Seetheyaru, Muthina Haara and Nishkarsha. Prakash re-entered Kannada films through Nagamandala in 1997, directed by T. S. Nagabharana. Veteran Kannada actor Shakti Prasad's son Arjun Sarja is known for his works in South Indian cinema. He was starred in works such as Prasad, the film was screened at the Berlin Film Festival, and Arjun received the Karnataka State Award for his performance.
Sanchari Vijay's portrayal of a transgender won him the National Best Actor Award. With the award win, Vijay became the third actor after M. V. Vasudeva Rao, and Charuhasan to win the National Award for Best Actor for performing in a Kannada film.
Shiva Rajkumar is known for his work in Janumada Jodi, Anand, Ratha Sapthami, Nammoora Mandara Hoove, Om Simhada Mari, and Chigurida Kanasu. He acted in Sugreeva, which was shot in 18 hours. His Om, directed by Upendra, set a trend of gangster movies in Kannada and other film industries in India. It continues to be shown even to this day.
Rockline Venkatesh founded Rockline Entertainments which has produced over twenty five films as of 2012. New age actors Puneeth Rajkumar, Darshan, Sudeep, Yash, Rakshit Shetty, and Yash are one of the highest-paid actors in Sandalwood. Rashmika Mandanna starrer Kirik Party opened to widespread acclaim from critics and audiences alike and went on to become highest-grossing film of the year by collecting ₹50 crore against production budget ₹4 crore, and completed 150-days in main centers of Karnataka,
Composer Hamsalekha is usually referred to by the title Naadha Brahma (English: The Brahma of Music) who is considered to be the major cause for the change in the music composing and lyric writing style which would appeal much to the younger generation. He integrated folk and introduced western musical sensibilities into the Kannada cinema.
Mano Murthy scored the blockbuster film Mungaru Male starring Ganesh and Pooja Gandhi. Upon the album's release, it topped the charts with the song "Anisuthide" receiving significant radio and TV air time. The album emerged as a massive success topping every Kannada music chart. It was reported that by mid-May 2007, over 200,000 copies were sold in compact discs.
The first government institute in India to start technical courses related to films was established in 1941 named as occupational institute then called the Sri Jayachamarajendra (S J) Polytechnic in Bengaluru. In September 1996, two specialized courses, Cinematography and Sound & Television were separated and the Government Film and Television Institute was started at Hesaraghatta, under the World Bank Assisted Project for Technician Development in India.
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Media related to Kannada cinema at Wikimedia Commons