Mohan Bhavanami, the Chief Producer of the Film Division of the Government of India, made the first Kannada silent film, Mricchakatika, in 1929. In 1932 came two talkies, Bhaktha Dhruva and Sati Sulochana. At first the theatre provided the inspiration and artistic resources for the filmmakers, but cinema evolved somewhat sporadically until the 1950s. There were several reasons for this: the absence of sponsorship, lack of adequate technical facilities and the contentment of the audiences with seeing Hindi, Tamil and Telugu films.

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Majority Kannada films are of the popular variety - sentimental, melodramatic, escapist, full of songs and dance