“It is more or less a progressive degeneration of life — from an ashram to a city like Bangalore and from theatre to cinema and then to politics,” this was the self-deprecating words of Anant Nag, one of the country's best actors.
He was chatting with his audience at Belli Hejje, the monthly interactive programme organised by the Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy here on Saturday.
He was responding to a query about him and his charismatic younger brother, Shankar Nag. Going down memory lane, he said the life they led was a sea-change from the traditional moorings of their childhood.
“It's better to do cinema than politics because the latter is full of vested interests. Once I entered politics, I felt suffocated,” he said, responding to another query by moderator Satyamurty Anandoor.
“I supported Janata Party solely because I did not like the single-party (read Congress) rule and felt that for democracy to thrive, there should be different political parties ruling the country.”
Contrary to popular perception that he was influenced by the late Ramakrishna Hegde to join politics, Mr. Anant Nag said it was in fact the late J.H. Patel who influenced him. When he and Shankar Nag met Hegde in 1983 to campaign for Janata Party, the latter dissuaded them. “However, we went ahead with campaigning for Janata Party,” he said.
He was made a member of the Legislative Council in 1993 and became an MLA in 1996.
“When I said I did not join politics for power, Patel chided me saying ‘Then why are you in politics?'. Though he made me a Minister, I asked him to attach my portfolio to his office as I was not an efficient administrator. We floated bonds to raise Rs. 500 crore to upgrade Bangalore's infrastructure, some bureaucrats told me it was not like James Bond.”
“When bureaucrats and politicians were planning a big flyover at Mekhri Circle at a cost of about Rs. 100 crore, I suggested a grade separator which was completed within six months at a tenth of the cost,” he said, talking of vested interests in politics and administration.
The 63-year-old chivalrously ducked a question on his favourite heroine, waxing eloquent on all his co-stars.
“In fact, Gayatri, my wife, has acted in more films with Shankar Nag than with me!” he said.
Though he started his career in Kannada cinema with Sankalpa , an art house film, he was comfortable with mainstream cinema too. “I accepted whatever came and was not choosy,” he said. “I was travelling on two boats; whenever one boat was about to sink, the other rescued me!”
Both Nag brothers were passionate about art films, he said.
Ms. Gayatri and academy Chairman T.S. Nagabharana were present.