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Over to the POLITICIAN

`There is nothing wrong in actors contesting elections. It was JP's idea that people from all walks of life enter politics. Moreover, politicians beat us in what we do best — acting.'

`Ramakrishna Hegde and S.R. Bommai were our doddappas while Deve Gowda and J.H. Patel were our chikkappas." — Photos: K. Gopinathan

HE MIGHT have lost the elections. But his "commitment to politics" (as he prefers to put it) has not ebbed one bit. On the contrary, his chequered political career has added that element of fiction to the vibrant persona that Ananth Nag is.

Chatting with him is like handling the suaveness of a seasoned politician, the charm of an effervescent actor, and an interesting blend of the two. It is also an attempt to pry open the proverbial Pandora's box. For though Ananth Nag belongs to a party and swears by its ideology, he has a mind of his own that begs to differ from the official stand of his party. Be it his joining the JD (S) or his party aligning with the Congress, he is strikingly candid, unmindful of the feathers he's bound to ruffle.

For instance, his joining of the JD (S) is considered to be the last thing a J.H. Patel loyalist would do. But ask him about this and he strongly protests. "During the 1999 elections, J.H. Patel was forced to join hands with the BJP in the State and that is how the split in the Janata Dal came about. There was nothing personal between him (J.H. Patel) and Deve Gowda. Now, after five years, I have merely come back to the party that is the true keeper of the Janata Dal legacy. All my ex-colleagues — Siddaramaiah, M.P. Prakash, and P.G.R. Sindhia — are with me. Moreover, I have not joined the Congress or the BJP. That would have made me a turncoat," he explains.

But this is what he has to say about JD (S) joining hands with the Congress to form the government: "I think we are supping with devil. The Congress will swallow us in no time. Also, in a bid to keep the BJP out of power, we are actually strengthening that party's hands. I personally believe that we should approach the people and seek a fresh mandate. I am sure we will win hands down."

So how did he get to take on S.M. Krishna? "I was told that he may opt for a constituency within Bangalore, and in that case, I would be the party's candidate. I was reluctant, but there was no way in which I could refuse Mr. Deve Gowda. Around midnight, I got a call saying I should be ready to file my nomination if (S.M. Krishna) opts for Chamarajapet. Everything happened in a jiffy."

Ananth Nag blames his unfamiliarity with the constituency and lack of preparation for his debacle. "There was no publicity material and I had to undertake a door-to-door campaign. To my dismay, my supporters were either former Congress or BJP workers who had defected to JD (S). Looks like the people had already decided to vote the (then) Chief Minister. That probably explains the hospitality I got everywhere. People were charitable in a compensating way!"

He is defensive about the drubbing that most starts-turned-politicians got in the elections. "Firstly, I am not a star but an actor," he corrects me, and goes on: "There is nothing wrong in actors contesting elections. It was Jayaprakash Narayan's idea that people from all walks of life enter politics. Moreover, there are no sanitised territories. For instance, politicians beat us in what we do best — acting."

I ask him to quickly recap his impressions of J.H. Patel and his own tenure as the Minister of State for Bangalore Urban Development. "In the Janata Dal, Ramakrishna Hegde and S.R. Bommai were our doddappas while Deve Gowda and J.H. Patel were our chikkappas. J.H. Patel's wit and repartees are legendary. I was close to him. He was very charismatic.

"No single person or government can take credit for the development of a colossal city like Bangalore. It was during our government's term that we prepared a plan for Bangalore's development and even got the funds for it. Mr. S.M. Krishna merely implemented it. When I was the minister, there was lot of bureaucratic resistance. The popular refrain from officials to any proposal was `your filmi ideas will not work'. I have given it back to them and did some good work."

No discussion with him is complete without a reference to his charismatic brother Shankar Nag, especially now that he is also doing Maneater of Malgudi. Recalling the days with his late sibling, he says: "Yes. I acted in only four episodes. I did not know how to do the sweet vendor and finally Shankar and I decided I should imitate my father. Those memories are still fresh. We are shooting at Agumbe where I had previously shot with Shankar. People invariably ask about him."

`Formula did us in'

WHAT AILS the Kannada film industry? Ask Ananth Nag this and the actor points out to the industry's problems. "Firstly, there is the problem of creativity as we are not innovative. We readily seek refuge in formula movies. Secondly, the assault by TV has left us high and dry. Whenever I mention a new movie in which I have acted, people instantly ask me when it will be telecast on cable. The culture of going to theatres is slowly dying. Also, Kannada movies don't have a sizeable market like the Tamil or Telugu movies. That has worked to their disadvantage."

Isn't alternative cinema becoming a rarity in Kannada, considering he started his career acting in movies such as Ankur and Manthan directed by Shyam Benegal. "Yes, art movies are becoming rare and this is mainly due to lack of encouragement, and competition from mainstream cinema. The National Film Development Corporation, which was set up to fund theatres where alternative films could be screened, is not doing so. Since the commercial risk is too high, nobody wants to produce art movies."

Interestingly, Ananth Nag feels that multiplexes will revive the trend of art house cinema. "Anahath (the Marathi film starring him and directed by Amol Palekar) is doing very well in multiplexes in Maharashtra," he says.

But aren't multiplexes elitist, I ask, and pat comes the reply: "Aren't art movies elitist?"


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