Film made in the Kannada language comes from what is known as the Sandalwood film industry; just as Hindi films emerge from Bollywood. While most of the films are made in Kannada, there are a few exceptions to films being made in Konkani and Tulu, making Kannada cinema an important aspect of Indian cinema. The most noted actor to emerge from Kannada films was Dr. Rajkumar. He was well known for his captivating voice and versatile acting abilities.
Others who have received many accolades include Gubbi Veeranna, Balakrishna, Puttanna Kanagal, Prabhakar, Lokesh, Anant Nag, Girish Karnad, Manjula, Ravichandran, Narasimharaju and Dwarakesh. Kannada cinema has lost many of its most talented stars on grounds of different reasons such as accidents and people fading off screen such as Soundarya, Kalpana, Manjula, Suneel and others. However due to lack of studios and technical crews, financers backed away from film projects in the early stages of Kannada cinema.
Sati Sulochana released in 1934 has the credit of being the first talky film in Kannada. The 1950’s saw the emergence of Dr. Rajkumar. He formed a partnership with two others to produce more Kannada films, but the partnership lasted for a few years before withering away. Most films during this era revolved around mythology and historic events. The golden period of Kannada cinema was seen during the 1970’s and 80’s where along with Bengali and Malayalam cinema, the emergence of parallel cinema took place in Kannada cinema as well. Films like Kaadu, Samskara, Hamsageethe, Ondanondu Kaladalli, Chomana Dudi were some of the important films to emerge from this era.
Girish Kasaravalli, is considered to be the pioneer behind New Wave Cinema in Karnataka. He has won the National award for best film four times. With the government of Karnataka in the 1980’s awarding a 50 per cent tax exempt fee for films made in all its entirety in Karnataka, more interest was generated, bringing in much needed revenue into the Kannada film industry. Shivarajkumar started off his film career with one success after another. Other stars who shone in the spotlight were Vanitha Vasu, Devaraj, Jaggesh, Lokanath and Anjana.
The 21st century saw the coming of a fresh wave of talent like Shashikumar, Ramesh Aravind, Malashri, Darshan and Sudeep. Many artists from other film industries have dabbled in Sandalwood too, such as Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor, Mani Ratnam and Kamal Hassan, while actors like Prabhu Deva and Atul Kulkarni moved to other film industries like Bollywood. In recent years the industry has had a great revival even at the box office churning out one hit after the other such as Mungaru Male and Jogi.