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A gentleman and a master of visuals

Bageshree S.
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V.K. Murthy brought ‘magic to images’

Murthy immortalised the image of Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman in Pyasa.
Murthy immortalised the image of Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman in Pyasa.

Jayant Kaikini describes cinematographer V.K. Murthy, who passed away on Monday, as a “visionary.” After all, he showed his audience “not just visuals but visions” through his sensitive work in the black-and-white masterpieces of Guru Dutt, says the poet and lyricist.

Mr. Kaikini was among the handful of people from the Kannada film industry who were at the old house of Murthy at Shankarapuram in south Bangalore to pay their last respects on Monday afternoon to the recipient of Dadasaheb Phalke Award.

Simplicity personified

Murthy was not a man to flaunt his achievements and his passing away at the ripe old age of 91 did not quite hit television headlines the way most news related to film personalities do.

“He had a simplicity about him that belied his association with filmdom,” recalls Uma Rao, the author of his biography Bisilu Kolu .

“Murthy taught a generation the grammar of visual depiction,” says Mr. Kaikini, recalling his work in the songs for Guru Dutt’s Pyasa .

“The contrast between the picturisation of a lyrical Aaj sajan mujhe ang lagao and the prose-like Jinhen naaz hai Hind par is testimony to his mastery,” he says.

Fascinating feature

Filmmaker Girish Kasaravalli describes Murthy as a man who brought “magic to his images.” A particularly fascinating feature of his work, he adds, was the way he could switch from “heightened realism to stylised imaging” in his lighting when he moved from narration to a song.

Filmmaker Rajendra Singh Babu, who was closely associated with Murthy for 40 years and persuaded him to do cinematography for Huvu Hannu , regrets that Karnataka ignored Murthy despite his sterling achievements. “We had a lot to learn from him, but unfortunately we didn’t,” he says.

Fond memories

People who had come to pay their last respects to Murthy also had fond memories of him as an affable gentleman. Mr. Kasaravalli describes him as a “typical Old Mysorean” who spoke little but was always open-minded and helpful to those younger to him.

Dr. Sucharita, Murthy’s niece and personal doctor, described him as “a quiet man who loved having people around.” He was “Kutti uncle” to many like her and loved simple things in life: hot rice with rasam, curd rice and steaming cups of coffee.

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