Why 2022 belonged to Hombale Films, makers of KGF: Chapter 2, Kantara – India Today

A film production house in Bengaluru had the biggest laugh in 2022. In a span of six months, Hombale Films saw two of its movies smash box-office records. Kannada films KGF: Chapter 2 and Kantara became pan-India successes and made its leading men, Yash and Rishab Shetty, respectively, India’s new superstars. No wonder a multiplex-owner called Vijay Kiragandur and Chaluve Gowda of Hombale Films to congratulate them on being the “most profitable studio”.
Films were not even the duo’s first business. Sons of farmers from neighbouring villages in Karnataka’s Mandya and the first in their families to get into business, Kiragandur and Gowda set up a construction company in 2010. Three years on, they got into film production, acting on Kiragandur’s belief that construction and entertainment were industries that would persist against odds. The friends see Hombale as doing “their bit towards keeping the Kannada culture intact, especially for the young generation”. “We had the dream of conveying a good social message through a medium. We chose entertainment to do so, given its strength and reach,” they say.
The first film from the banner was Ninnindale (2014) with Puneeth Rajkumar. It was one of the first Kannada films to be shot in the US for 30 days, which Kiragandur says was “unheard of in Kannada cinema”. Next year came Masterpiece starring Yash, followed by another Puneeth Rajkumar film, Raajakumara (2017), also Hombale’s first superhit. But it was with KGF: Chapter 1 (2018) that the studio experienced success beyond Karnataka—the Hindi-dubbed version collecting Rs 48 crore.
“We always believed language is not a barrier in entertainment and we weren’t going to restrict ourselves to the Kannada-speaking market,” says the duo. Kiragandur and Gowda are acting on their words. Their 2023 slate has six titles, including Salaar, a Prashanth Neel-directed and Prabhas-starrer “event film”, which much like the KGF films will release in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. There’s also a Tamil film with National Award-winning actress Keerthy Suresh and a Malayalam film with the acclaimed actor Fahadh Faasil. Hombale is looking to venture into Hindi film production too. “We try to finalise the script and director first,” say Kiragandur and Gowda. “Once we have the script ready, we will look for a hero.”
The priority, though, will always be to demonstrate that the Kannada industry can make films which resonate nationwide, a feat other South film industries—Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam—have been doing consistently for a while now. “We felt we can take the industry to the next level,” say Kiragandur and Gowda. “It’s not like we had no good actors or directors or that our movies were not made in other languages. They were just not dubbed in Hindi on satellite TV as much. Nobody has tried to take the content out of Karnataka to the global audience. People may have tried but they didn’t succeed.”
KGF: Chapter 1 became the first Kannada film to show that a Kannada film could appeal to audiences in the Hindi belt and make inroads into global markets. KGF: Chapter 2 was even bigger, grossing Rs 937 crore in India alone. The feat was all the more impressive given KGF was primarily a Make-in-Karnataka endeavour. The sets were mounted in abandoned sites, such as Minerva Mills and HMT factory. Ninety per cent of the films were shot in Karnataka, including at the Kolar Gold Fields, with only 15 per cent at the Ramoji Studios in Hyderabad.
Kantara initially wasn’t seen as a nationwide success, but when word flew from Karnataka about the film’s merit, Hombale swept into action, dubbing the film in four languages—Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam—within 10 days. “Our aim was to be rooted to our culture and state. There was no dearth of good technicians in Karnataka. We did not see any requirement to go out, be it DI (digital intermediate process) studios, cinematographer or music director. There is enough space and infrastructure available here,” say Kiragandur and Gowda.

Hombale’s upcoming Kannada films include Bagheera, written by Neel and another introducing Puneet’s nephew Yuvraj Kumar, and a thriller-action titled Richard Anthony with Rakshit Shetty. All eyes are now on the film company to see what their next pan-India hit will be. Gowda is practical. “Our intention is not to take every film to pan-India level,” he says. “Our vision is to make one pan-India movie every year. We want to cater to the Kannada audience and make more rooted stories.”
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