The director's natural choice

Muralidhara Khajane
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R.N.K. Prasad, who briefly flirted with acting, was at home with cinematography

TAKING A BREATHER:Cinematographer R.N.K. Prasad (left) shares a light moment with actorM.G. Ramachandran and others during shooting.— Photo: by Special Arrangement
TAKING A BREATHER:Cinematographer R.N.K. Prasad (left) shares a light moment with actorM.G. Ramachandran and others during shooting.— Photo: by Special Arrangement

Belli Moda (1966), directed by Puttanna Kanagal, was a milestone in Kannada cinema as it was the first film to be shot outdoors.

The story goes that Puttanna scouted for a week to find a perfect location to capture the beauty of an early morning in an estate for the mellifluous song, Moodala maneya, muttina neerina . Few know that ace cinematographer R.N.K. Prasad, who passed away recently, shot the song over five days to get the right effect and mood.


Prasad was the preferred cinematographer for many directors of yesteryear, including those of Naandi , Mareyada Haadu and Avala Antaranga . Besides being a cinematographer, he was an actor, director and an excellent table tennis player. He acted in Michael Madana Kamarajan and Nayagan with Kamal Hassan.

Naguva Hoovu (1972) directed by him bagged a national award. Prasad also received State awards for his work in Belli Moda , Mareyada Haadu (1981) and Avala Antaranga (1984). He received the lifetime achievement award from the Karnataka Government in 2008-09.

He held camera for Rosapoo Ravikaikari in Tamil, a remake of Parasangada Gendethimma , which got him the best cameraman award from the Tamil Nadu Government.

Another first

According to B.S. Basavaraj, veteran cameraman, who made a 13-minute documentary on Prasad, never did he hesitate to experiment with new cameras. “He was the first one to successfully handle the Mitchell camera.”

Prasad was the second son of R. Nagendra Rao (RNR), a doyen of Kannada cinema. After graduating from Central College, Bangalore, he studied cinematography at S.J. Polytechnic. He honed his skills under Muthuswamy of AVM Studio and debuted as an independent cinematographer in Premada Putri (1957), directed by his father.

“Prasad was the director's natural choice, because of his professionalism and creativity,” says Mr. Basavaraj.


Recalling his association with Prasad, producer-director Nagesh Baba, who studied with him in Central College, says that Prasad used to shoot films in Debri camera, an old model, which had its limitations, and would be tense till the film was developed. “He would be happy only if he was satisfied with the output.”

“When I asked for his interview for the documentary, Prasad was initially reluctant. He finally gave in after a lot of persuasion,” recalls Mr. Basavaraj.

Prasad belonged to the realistic genre of cinematography. After directing a film and acting in two, he felt that a cinematographer should not engage in multiple jobs as it would affect the quality of his work.

  • Naguva Hoovu (1972) directed by Prasad bagged a national award

  • ‘He did not hesitate to experiment with new cameras'




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