In a sense a three-way war has begun in the Kannada entertainment world. Two of the three belligerents are from the small screen and the other is the 80-year-old Kannada film industry. Every time there is such a contest, there are fears that the industry being small will become fragmented and weak.
But, there is another theory that such competition will increase overall audience numbers and help both the small screen and silver screen grow.
The fight between Bigg Boss and Kannadada Kotyadipati on the one hand and between these two and the Kannada films on the other hand will be played out for the next three months. Their target is the Kannada audience. The Kannada audience is spoilt for choice. The first half of 2013 has been one of the best quarters for Kannada films.
Now we have two of the costliest and lavish television programmes going head to head. As of now, the audience are the winners. But which of the three will win in the end is an open question. This is an attempt to understand the realities.
8 PM Prime Slot
A few years ago, a liquor brand utilized the 8 pm slot in their advertisement campaign effectively. An old saying goes that two tigers cannot be kings of the same territory. In the Kannada film world, this has proved disastrous for both. Two recent examples (in relative terms) are as follows: Shivarajkumar acted Gandhadagudi Part II and Ravichandran's Chinna released on the same date. Both had a animal-jungle background and both failed. Years later, Ravichandran's most ambitious project, Ekangi and the then current craze Upendra's H20 released on the same date. And history has recorded both results. After that (and many before that) are part of Kannada film history now.
Now, such a huge battle is being fought on the small screen for the first time. Earlier, channels have fought battles and wars. But never on such a scale. When one channel telecast a big hit of one actor, another channel would telecast another film of the same actor. Or a channel would also telecast another actor's big hit. But never would an actor be remotely involved in this game.
But times have changed. Without doubt, there are three top stars in Sandalwood now. Darshan is not in small screen now. But the other two are clashing on prime time. At 8 pm, the two are head to head to win the masses. Kannadada Kotyadipati with Puneeth hosting it is telecast from Monday to Friday. Whoever is the participant, he is the biggest attraction of the show. On the other hand, the format of Bigg Boss means Sudeep is seen only on weekends though the show is telecast all seven days of the week. In this star war, the distinction between a game show (Kannadada Kotyadipati) and a reality show (Bigg Boss) is blurred. But neither of the actors is responsible for this clash.
In terms of viewership, at the general level, both should lose. But in reality, both will gain.
It is not Sudeep Vs Puneeth. In reality it is a fight between two channels and both want to get maximum benefit. But when two big stars or two big channels or two big films or two big serials or two big shows clash, it is not these two who lose but the third, fourth, fifth and sixth channels and their programmes at the same slot. So, the 8 PM slot which was divided between 15 Kannada entertainment channels till last week is now divided between just two channels.
But it is not just other channels which will lose. What will happen to the second shows in film theatres with so many film actors doing virtually live shows on television? Can the Kannada film industry survive the next three months?
It is not the deep-pocketed channels that are worried. The poor Kannada producers are the ones who should be in a great deal of agony. The year 2013 has been a good year for Sandalwood so far. Not only has films of the previous years like Kranti Veera Sangolli Rayanna and Addhuri fared well but also new releases like Charminar, Mynaa, Attahasa and Simple aag ond Love Story doing well.
In this good spell of Sandalwood enters the two biggest TV programmes of Kannada television. In the last few years, the film industry has blamed entertainment channels for the poor box office collections in the second show at single screen theatres. The second show starts anywhere between 6 pm and 7.30 pm depending on the location of the theatre. This clashes directly with the prime time audience of television.
Family audience had moved to television because of mega daily serials for the past few years. Collections during second show has dropped in single screen theatres for years now. With the reality and game shows, this dropped further with even male audience sticking to television. KFI has a few cards up its sleeves. The big challengers awaiting the litmus test at the box office in the next few weeks include Malashree's Veera, Shivanna's Andar Bahar, Sudeep's Bachchan.