The Alfred Hitchcock of Kannada Cinema…

Very recently I met one of my old teacher, who educated me through his works, who inspired and hooked me to cinema, for the art of story telling and many other things. Truly, from the bottom of my heart I respect him and his works. Then my eye met him, I was completely blank and stood still for a few seconds, asking myself it if was really him. Then somehow made up my mind and went towards him, the first thing I did, when I stood in front of him was, asked him, “sir nimma aashirvaada padeyabahuda?” (sir can I get blessings from you?). He immediately gave me a hug and told, “How are u and what are you doing these days?” We had a long conversation and we departed. He is none other than, Mr. Sunil Kumar Desai.

2007051851570101Feeling like sharing an old piece of writing about him, which I had written 2 years ago. Re-visited it and it’s fresh.

Sunil Kumar Desai (SKD), a noted Writer, Film Director from Kannada Film Industry, is well-known and a brand director. He was one of them who inspired me with the idea of story telling and he was a purely a teacher for me at a young age. If I roughly remember, from the age I started thinking about films and stuffs, Desai was one of among those inspiring filmmakers, who pulled towards cinema. He is one among the Director’s list, who has touched the daring subjects and at the same, executed very brilliantly. Versatility by nature, gripping the screenplay at his best, and mostly importantly the blend of Art and Commercial cinema is much unique. The subjects, actors and technicians all fit like a glove.


Tarka (Logic) (1988) was released as a directorial debut of Desai; it created waves in the history of parallel cinema. When I watched this movie; I could witness the edge of the seat factor! Tarka was a two hour suspense thriller with absolutely no songs and fights; it almost reminded me of an Alfred Hitchcock thriller. Having written the story, screenplay and dialogues himself – Desai made a hallmark as entry into movies.

UtkarshaHe continued with Utkarsha (Climax) (1990), reviews reported this as a remake of Psycho and frenzy of Alfred Hitchcock. But to me, this seemed far different than those movies, except for some traces of screen-shots and lighting. But this again was a magnificent breath-taking thriller with no songs and fights that dealt with a psychopath as the main protagonist, beautifully portrayed by Devraj. But it failed at box office, though it was a thriller, since it lacked the grip!

Sangharsha (Clash) (1991) was another brilliant subject which didn’t make money, but again the thriller genre was making it’s mark in the industry. SangharshaDuring this time Desai was under trouble, since his films were not making money and for such a brilliant filmmaker, it is very important to make a come back and pull the audience towards him. Desai was already famous by this time, by the way he used to approach the concepts, the narration style, with a Desi touch!

The recovery of the shock came from his next success Nishkarsha (Decision) (1994), an action packed thriller that set new standards in Indian cinema yet another time. It was on outstanding and remarkable movie, which laid some milestones in the History of Kannada Film Industry. 0453As far as I know, for that period, it was the first film which had the ‘Aerial Shot’ which is often called as Establishment shot! Bengaluru was seen through bird’s eye view, so beautiful, so majestic it was. It had some brilliant performances,  tightly scripted screenplay, good editing and BGM was top-notch! Though the film is much inspired by the Bruce Willis starrer “Die Hard“, it was so cleverly and stylishly made, adapting to the nativity and making it feel as if it is happening live! Till date it is one of the most demanded movie and for me, it’s like a textbook and guide!

He switched his venture to a love story, Beladingala Baale (Lady of the moonlight) (1995) which became a classic of all times. A novel based story adapted from the famous Yendumoori Veerendranath’s novel “Vennela Adapilla”. It anxiety and curiosity, for its unusual story-line.
Beladingala-Baale-1995-Kannada-Movie-Watch-OnlineCreated waves in the industry. It had “no fights, no hero, no heroine, no dialogues in most of the second half, no comedians, no villains”, this made it something special. It had combination of many wonderful things like the dialogues which were the most brilliant I had ever heard in movies, splendid lighting and Cinematography by P. Rajan, BGM and Music just blended so well, that it was a real treat! Usually when a novel based movie is done, it will either have a different climax or to circle the storytelling or something which director feels that it would match the current audience will be made. But the movie was a unique one because the movie was just made perfectly the way it was in novel; This was the last thriller in the series of his first five movies and the first thriller to lose the title with “arka” syllable.

I remember someone saying, “I feel that after Puttanna Kanagal, it was Sunil kumar desai who really gave us movies worth watching, movies which goes beyond limits of time.”

Kannada cinema audience were obsessed with same old things, it was the Desai who craved their obsession with something fresh and realistic concepts. People who were asking for some films which would somehow be on a par with Hindi and Hollywood productions style, were totally stunned by SKD’s story narration style and Direction. When Nishkarska was released, Desai was in news, almost in every column of the film review sections. It was everybody’s talk about this man, who loved changes and at the same time, he had set a standard in presentation.

His films, punctuated with a catchy title, logical story-line, spine-tingling suspense, nerve-racking thrills, taut dialogues while attempt to explore the harsh realities of individual and society.

A new trend was set, people went to watch his movies not because of stars and not because of any commercial elements, but because it was “Sunil Kumar Desai’s” movie. The three-worded name “Sunil Kumar Desai” had become a brand itself for canvassing his movies. Such honor was rarely observed, other than the legendary Puttanna Kanagal. Reviews compared Sunil Kumar Desai as the “Maniratnam of Kannada” and “ Spielberg of India”; but for me “Desai was Desai”. The incomparable and exceptional master has always been known for his “commercial experiments.”

Nammoora Mandara Hoove

Later he completely switched to family entertainers like Nammoora Mandaara Hoove (Flower of our town) (1997) – Love story, which was a big success at the box office and the trivia is the entire movie was shot without a screenplay! Now that something unique. A story about friendship, love and sacrifice, which is still at its best. Music Maestro Ilayaraja, was the soul for the film. Every song from the film is still refreshing and soothing. The story demanded such music. One of finest ever re-recordings done. The story narrated by utilizing the natural beauty of Sahyadri was an element in the script.

Prema Raaga Haadu Gelati (1998) (Sing the love song o, partner), another love story with Shivraj kumar, made on the success ride mandaara hoove. Then again he tried a suspense thriller, Pratyartha (1999), which had Sudeep in small role, after his debut in acting, Thayavva (1997).

Next was, Sparsha (Touch) (2000), a love story with twists and a very different genre: it was soft, melodious and full of Kannada shayari, which introduced Sudeep as the lead actor. sparshaThough the film had music bramha, Hamsalekha‘s touch, which had beautiful songs, picturised wonderfully, the film’s release was affected by the kidnap of the veteran actor Dr. Rajkumar and it failed to make money.

Parva (2001) – a musical love story was another unexpected disastrous high budget film. Some clicked, but some din’t, here SKD’s motives had slightly changed. Honestly I was literally waiting for his old magic, marmabut then came Marma (Secret) (2003). It was a surprising comeback and that too with his best, suspense thriller genre. It was a straight subject in which the heroine was the victim of an incident. The movie which dealt with sensitive issues like schizophrenia and hallucination, in general, stress disorder in particular. This film also won a State award for Best Sound Editing. SKD proved himself, what he was actually, with this comeback.

In an interview with The Hindu, Desai shares his thoughts on his kind of cinema:

On the selection of subject…I do not prefer ready made subjects such as short stories or novels. I internalize incidents I have seen, read, heard and develop them in my own format. There are complaints that my films are not based on stories. I beg to differ with my critics. How can I make films without a story-line? I do not write stories in the way a short story writer or a novelist writes. As incidents hold key to any story, I write a central incident in the screenplay format and develop it into a script. I am fond of exploring new styles of narration and treatment. The process of selection of subject and adaptation of it to cinema language demands hard work.

On the notion of cinema…For me cinema is sheer entertainment conditioned by commerce. I do not believe in preaching or sending messages to audience.

On quality…Both director and producer must shoulder the responsibility of choosing the subject and conforming to the standards of cinema making. Both of them and the dialogue writer should be held responsible if the situation depicted and the language employed are found affront to public decency. I personally believe that taste, perception and academic background of the film crew are vital in the making of decent and enjoyable good cinema. I am not against exploiting violence and sex, but I do with tremendous caution as supplementing commercial commodities if the subject demands.

220px-Sunilkumar_desaiHe made films like Ramya Chaitrakaala (2006), Kshana Kshana (2007), both of these were rejected by the audience as it lacked of many many things. After all these, for so many years none of his projects got a flight, reports say, he was with huge debts! That’s the reason he was not in the picture at all! Last year he was in news about his new venture,  Sarigama (2011) which had completed some 40%, but then due to financial constraint, it dint take off. But we are still waiting for his beautiful movies. Hope to see them soon. Best Wishes to our beloved sir, Sunil Kumar Desai (SKD), come back and entertain us!

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7 thoughts on “The Alfred Hitchcock of Kannada Cinema…

  1. Woow…Such a wonderful article about Mr.Sunil Kumar Desai by Mr.Madan Ramvenkatesh. Madan,with his article managed to transport me back to the good old memories when I was a kid and watched every movie of Dr.Rajkumar, Dr.Vishnuvardhan in theatres as soon as they were released. I’ve always been awestruck by the gripping thrillers from Sunil Kumar Desai. I had not even made it to high school when Dr.Vishnuvardhan starrer “Nishkarsha” was released. There was talk in the town about the way it was wonderfully picturised very differently from the usually followed convention in the Kannada film industry till then.One cannot just imagine the word of mouth hype that Nishkarsha got at that time.I really wanted to watch this movie. I literally begged my father for me to be taken to this movie. It was after watching Nishkarsha,that I got to know of a different genre of movies emerging in Kannada cinema. It also brought my attention to the Manipal Centre. And trust me I’ve been frequenting the building ever since watching this movie ! I was totally awestruck by the amazing storyteller Mr.Sunil Kumar Desai and his movie making style. It was then that I really became a fan of SKD,and have been an admirer of SKD and his movies since then. Who can forget the epic movie “Nammoora Mandara Hoove” by SKD? I really appreciate this wonderful article to bring the spotlight back on one of the greatest movie directors that kannada industry has even seen. SKD is not among those directors who’re here to make movies today and gone tomorrow after making money. SKD always made movies truly from his heart.And that showed on screen when the audience watched his movies in theatres. Kudos to the writer for penning thoughts on SKD.Well done !

    -Dilip Shyam

  2. Kannada Films have had one of the greatest directors like Putanna kanagal, Shankar nag,GV Iyer, Siddalingaiah and many many more who redefined not just kannada films but also Indian cinema.. one such director is Sunil Kumar desai..he with his new kind of narration and with the way he handled the mood of his stories was very neat and exciting.. i have not seen all of his films but from what i have seen he has made such an impact on me that i ended up seeing the same movies many a times..the different genre he touched romantic, thriller, Musical..he was the best..he himself was a brand..its sad that he had to go through a tough phase and we couldn’t get to see his Midas touch but we are aware of his caliber that he will bounce back and will create more master pieces like he has done before..

  3. We in Kannada Films have had one of the greatest directors like Putanna kanagal, Shankar nag,GV Iyer, Siddalingaiah and many many more who redefined not just kannada films but also Indian cinema.. one such director is Sunil Kumar desai..he with his new kind of story telling kept the audience thinking and the way he handled the mood of his stories was very neat and exciting..i have not seen all of his films but from what i have seen he has made such an impact on me that i ended up seeing the same movies many a times..the different genre he touched romantic, thriller, Musical..he made sure that it was his best..he made himself a brand. Movies were watched just because sunil kumar desai had directed it..its sad that he had to go through a tough phase and we couldn’t get to see his Midas touch which is part of any industry…also its sad that we complain that we dont have enough good directors with original thoughts..but i think some where sunil kumar desai didnt get his due..he deserved much more than what he got..but we are aware of his caliber that he will bounce back and will create more master pieces like he has done before..Thank you for entertaining us for so many years and we are ready for more.. and thank you madan for giving me an opportunity to share some words about a very respected and talented director sunil kumar desai..

  4. Wonderful blog Madan. I enjoy watching good moveis like anyone else but apart from that my knowledge about Kannada cinema started decreasing big time after the 1990s 😦 So it feels good to be updated about the stuff that matters through your blogs! Good service, in a way 🙂 Lage Raho Madan bhai…

  5. Truly a Very nice, in depth article about One of the Best and all time favorite Film Maker Mr. Sunil Kumar Desai. Yes as you said…his movies were brilliant with New genre, Tight Screenplays, Twists and Turns, Suspense, Family melo drama. Touched some untouched subjects, created Awareness and Yes inspire many a Young Film makers to be a part of Sandalwood. No doubt that his movies will always stand up and above in Sandalwood Cinema Race. I still remember that me and my brother were always had discussions, chats about many of his movies.. Specially “NISHKARSHA” is my all time favorite and Best movie which I have watched more than 70 times, “Devraj E Katthi meley Ninna Hesaru bardide naan bartha iddeni” WoooooW…. I still remember that intense dialogue of Vishnu Sir… SKD is Supremo.

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