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Double honour for State in film awards

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High point: Kannada actor Umasri who won the Best Actress Award.
High point: Kannada actor Umasri who won the Best Actress Award.

K.N. Venkatasubba Rao

Umasri is overwhelmed, Prakash dedicates the award to his team

Bangalore: Karnataka has more than one reason to celebrate as the prestigious Golden Lotus awards have been announced. While Umasri has bagged the Best Actress Award for her lead performance in Gulabi Talkies, Prakash Raj, who has won the Best Actor Award for the Tamil film Kanchivaram, has his roots in Kannada theatre and films.

“I do not know what to say,” an elated Umasri told The Hindu. “As Umasri, a social worker, a former MLC and a mother of two children, I am simply overwhelmed. But Umasri, the artiste, is not merely happy but grateful for all those who moulded her, and the Kannada audience that recognised and responded to the roles she played.” In Girish Kasaravalli’s Gulabi Talkies, Umasri dons the role of a Muslim midwife, Gulnabi. The film maps the communalisation of the coastal districts through the humane eyes of Gulnabi.

Interestingly, both Prakash Raj, who is known in Kannada cinema as Prakash Rai, and Umasri entered Kannada cinema from theatre. While Umasri concentrated on Kannada theatre and cinema, Prakash Raj went to Chennai seeking wider pastures.

Umasri entered the Kannada theatre scene in the seventies, when it was undergoing tremendous change owing to the inescapable influence of the Navya school of Kannada literary tradition. It was the play Odalala, based on the acclaimed Kannada novel by Devanuru Mahadeva, that brought her to the centre-stage of Kannada theatre and led her on to Kannada cinema. From humble beginnings, Umasri went on to act in over 200 plays and 300 films and won six Best Supporting Actress awards, the recent one being the Best Actress Award from the prestigious Osean jury, the first for an Indian actor. In an interview with The Hindu in 2008 after she won the honour, she had said: “When I started out all on my own at the age of 18, I was innocent. There were only two worlds — my acting world and the world of my children who had to be fed and nurtured. If I have survived in the film industry it is with my theatre sensibilities .... Theatre keeps you grounded, far away from the illusory grandeur and glamour of films. I’m not an educated woman. I dropped out of school in the tenth standard. Life’s experiences have educated me.”

Known for her ability to observe and convey language variations, expressions and mannerisms, she said that she observes people very closely and tries to bring diversity into the roles she plays. On working with directors such as Mr. Kasaravalli, she said: “It is altogether a different experience. One must be willing to unlearn. What one needs to do is follow instructions and that is more than adequate.”

Prakash Raj, who is all set to produce and direct a Kannada film, told The Hindu from Chennai that he was happy that Umasri, with whom he entered theatre and acted with, bagged the Best Actress Award.

Shama Sunder reports from Hassan:

Prakash Raj said that the film Kanchivaram was shot in and around Mysore and Melkote. “I am happy to get the award. But I am happier because the film also got the award for Best Film. The credit for the award must go to the entire team of the film. I was hesitant to act in the film in the beginning as a Malayalam film director was directing a Tamil film. But when I heard the story, I instantly agreed and at the time of shooting, I knew that the film would get the award.” He complimented the director of the film, Priyadarshan. Prakash Raj added that he is a “Kannadiga” and that he would be happier if he gets an award for acting in a Kannada film.

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