Karnataka ban on movies not made in Kannada

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Sat Nov 27 20:53:02 UTC 2004

Bollywood ban in language fight

  By Habib Beary BBC correspondent in Bangalore

A burqa-clad mother queues up with her child outside a cinema in southern
India, looking forward to seeing her favourite Bollywood star, Sharukh
Khan, in the new Bollywood blockbuster, Veer-Zaara. Her excitement,
however, is shadowed by fear.  Policemen are frisking ticket holders at
the gates as a security measure in the wake of threats to disrupt the
first screenings of the film in the city.

The film has been screened in defiance of an unofficial moratorium imposed
by the local film industry on new films not made in Kannada, the language
of Karnataka state. Police are taking no chances as the threat is real.

This ban on Hindi, English and other language films is taking place in the
city of Bangalore, often presented as the modern face of India.  The
hawkish stand of Kannada-language organisations stems from a fear of being
reduced to a minority because of a big influx of people, particularly from
the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. Tamils form over 30% of Bangalore's
six million population.

'Bad image'

Underneath the gloss and glitter of Bangalore's hi-tech life, there is
what many see as a streak of intolerance, reflected in the crackdown on
films of languages other than Kannada. "It gives the city a bad image,"
says Samuel, a software engineer. This cosmopolitan city is the most
favoured destination for multinational companies like IBM, Motorola, Intel
and Philips.

It is also home to Indian global information technology giants Infosys and
Wipro besides various ethnic and linguistic groups from all over the
country "Where is the spirit of tolerance? How can you impose such an
order?" asks K Subramaniam of the film ban. As a Tamil, he has other
reasons to be opposed to those promoting the Kannada language. He and
other Tamils are fighting a legal battle to unveil a statue of Tamil saint

The statue has been covered in sackcloth in central Bangalore for more
than a decade because of opposition from some Kannada organisations.


Prominent socialist politician, AK Subbaiah, is a strong critic of the ban
on non-Kannada language films. Everybody should join hands to protect the
Kannada language Chandrashekar Kambara, Kannada writer "It is
anti-constitutional, illegal, and anti-social. Nobody can justify such a
ban," he argues.  The Supreme Court in Delhi has ordered that the ban be

But cinemas across Bangalore fear adverse consequences if they do not toe
the pro-Kannada line. Only three of the 108 theatres in Bangalore have
dared to screen Veer-Zaara - and they have had police protection. Stand
defended Kannada film producers say the moratorium is justified because it
is the only way of safeguarding the local film industry which has been hit
by losses and poor audiences. They have received support from many Kannada

"Everybody should join hands to protect the Kannada language," says
Kannada writer, Chandrashekar Kambara, who took part in a protest outside
one of the cinemas that defied the ban. Police Commissioner S Mariswamy
says protection will be given to all cinemas screening new non-Kannada
films. But the owners are sceptical.

"There is an atmosphere of fear," says RP Odugoudar, chairman of the
Karnataka Film Exhibitors Federation. The loss estimated to the film
industry because of the ban since it was effected in August is said to be
nearly $20m. "Bangalore is a great place but it is being spoilt by some
elements," says Manoj, a businessman from northern India. Anti-Tamil riots
in Bangalore in 1991 over the dispute of sharing Cauvery river water
between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu left 20 dead.

Tamil-language channels were not allowed to be broadcast for over a month
in protest against the kidnapping of Kannada film icon Rajkumar by bandit
Veerappan, a Tamil, in 2000. It is not just Tamils that have been
targeted. In the past, English signboards have been tarred as part of the
campaign to promote Kannada. The Bollywood film industry has petitioned
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to lift the ban.

After meeting Mr Singh, politician Amar Singh, who led the film
delegation, warned: "The ban is not merely injurious to the health of the
Indian film industry, but it also has the seed of generating linguistic
confrontation all over the country." Chief Minister of Karnataka Dharam
Singh denies any government support for the ban and says he is trying to
resolve the dispute through negotiations.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/11/26 18:07:08 GMT


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