One of the most trending questions of 2015 was “Why did Katappa kill Bahubali?” a reference to the 2015 blockbuster Bahubali-The Beginning. Now in 2017 when its sequel Bahubali-2 is about to release, the trending question of the day is “Why are Kannadigas so pissed with Katappa”? The people of Karnataka are angry with Sathyaraj, the actor who portrays the character of Katappa in the successful movie franchise and quite understandably so since the actor had made extremely offensive comments against Karnataka and Kannadigas in 2008.
Any individual who abuses his fellow citizens in such a derogatory manner needs to be condemned for such remarks and the pro-Kannada activists were right to demand an apology from Sathyaraj. However, was asking for a ban on Bahubali-2 to force Sathyaraj to apologise the right approach? No, that wasn’t the right approach for two main reasons.
- There are Kannadigas and people from Karnataka involved in the making of Bahubali-2. Anushka Shetty, the female protagonist of the movie is from Karnataka. The director, SS Rajamouli was born in Raichur, Karnataka and was also nominated by the Karnataka State Government for the Padma Shri. There are so many technicians and junior artistes involved in the making of the movie and there may be several Kannadigas among them since Telugu film industry is one of the biggest in India and employs people from all over India.
- Sathyaraj plays a supporting character in the movie and even if the movie is a big flop, it won’t make a difference to him. He is neither the producer nor the director. But it will be a huge loss to the producers and the makers of the movie who would be punished for no fault of their own. It was very sad to see the director, SS Rajamouli apologise to the people of Karnataka for no fault of his own.
Another point to be noted is that Sathyaraj made these remarks 9 years back. They were severely condemned back then but in these 9 years, several of his films like Mirchi and Chennai Express have released and have been successful in Karnataka. Why is so much of protest being carried out only now when Bahubali-2 is just about to release? Is it because Bahubali being a successful and popular franchise? That may be true but I suspect something else.
There can be another angle to view this story. There is a reason why Kannada film industry is significantly smaller when compared to the neighbouring Telugu and Tamil film industries. There is a reason why you can watch shows on Cartoon Network and Discovery in Tamil and Telugu but not in Kannada. This issue has come into the picture and has divided Karnataka into two parts, one consists of middle class salaried individuals and another part consists of the powerful and influential Kannada Film Industry Lobby
This issue is the dubbing ban which was in practice for several decades in Karnataka. Kannadigas are forced to watch movies in other languages whereas their counterparts in Tamil Nadu can easily watch the likes of Bahubali in Tamil and similarly, the people in Telugu states can watch Kabali in Telugu. But Kannadigas don’t have any such luxury.
The Kannada Film Industry or KFI believes that dubbing is against the interests of Kannadigas and is against Kannada. That is very absurd and the only reason why they are opposing dubbing is because if dubbing comes into picture, they won’t be able to remake films from other languages to Kannada. This is one reason why people actually want dubbing to be in place. People want to watch original, creative content and not the remade content and dubbing will certainly encourage creativity and originality in the long turn.
The middle class and educated Kannadigas realised that this ban is draconian and is hurting Kannadigas. Kannada Grahakara Koota, an organization that primarily consists of middle class Kannadigas filed a case against this ban and won it in the Karnataka High Court against the powerful KFI lobby. The Narayana Gowda led Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KRV) which is the most well-known pro-Kannada organization has always supported dubbing. There are several factions of the KRV and some are vehemently opposed to dubbing but not the actual KRV.
Recently the Ajith starrer Tamil film Yennai Arindhaal was dubbed in Kannada and released as Sathyadev IPS. The usual suspects, the powerful KFI backed “pro-Kannada” activists tried to disrupt the screening of the film. However, the film was screened in many places across Karnataka.
Now coming back to Bahubali, Kannadigas across the world started tweeting to SS Rajamouli to release Bahubali 2 in Kannada and #Bahubali2InKannada was trending for a long time on Twitter and perhaps had almost succeeded in getting it dubbed in Kannada. This was when the KFI lobby found a way to deviate from the main issue.
They targeted Bahubali 2 due to its association with Sathyaraj and called for a ban on the movie and a state-wide bandh on April 28, the day the movie is set to be released.
It certainly looks suspicious so as to see why there was so much outrage over Sathyaraj’s comments, 9 years after he had made them and after so many of his other films had already released across Karnataka. Vatal Nagaraj was a champion of Kannada rights in the 1990’s and his contribution was immense during that time. But now in 2017, the situation has changed and off late, Vatal Nagaraj’s bandh calls for every other issue have made him redundant. Bandh for every issue isn’t a solution and he himself is damaging his own legacy.
The KFI lobby has quickly diverted the attention of Bahubali-2 and it seems highly unlikely that it will now be dubbed in Kannada which might be a win for the KFI lobby but is a huge loss to 6 crore Kannadigas and for Kannada language. Some people are under the impression that dubbing will hurt Kannada film industry. If that was the case, then eminent personalities in the field of cinema like Prakash Belawadi who has also acted in Hindi movies like Madras Café, Airlift, Talvar, Pawan Kumar, the director of the acclaimed film Lucia, and many others wouldn’t support it. Dubbing is definitely more helpful in the long turn and it is time for Kannada film industry to acknowledge it and embrace it with open arms
Even if dubbing proves to be harmful for the Kannada film industry, it is not a problem because it definitely won’t be harmful for Kannada language and Kannada as a language will always come first and much ahead of KFI. Dubbing has benefited Tamil and Telugu film industries immensely and the two are among the biggest in India and it has benefited French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, and many other language film industries across the world. There was a time in the 1960’s when the dubbing ban was justified but now in 2017, it is no longer justified and it is high time that people realise it.
This matter is more serious and more significant than Sathyaraj or his ridiculous comments. It is more significant than Bahubali-2 also. Dubbing in Kannada is very important for Kannada language to be recognised in India the way our sister languages like Tamil and Telugu have been recognised. I hope that people realise this and look beyond Katappa or Sathyaraj or even Bahubali-2 for that matter.
Middle class Kannadigas have already triumphed once against the powerful KFI lobby in the court of law. It is only a matter of time that the triumph is complete.