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Kannada's parallel cinema loses its star

The sad demise of veteran actor L.V. Sharada has disturbed cinephiles who have watched her performance in Vamshavriksha and Phaniyamma, as Katyayini and Phaniyamma. These two characters etched an indelible impression on their minds. A look at the filmography of Sharada reveals that she has acted in very few films. It is not an exaggeration to say that any filmmaker of 70s, who wanted an actor to essay a complex character which had the challenge of emoting through the eyes, his first choice would be Sharada.

The way Sharada essayed the role of Phaniyamma, made national award filmmaker P. Sheshadri consider her for the role of Mookajji in his new film, Mookajjiya Kanasugalu, which recently bagged an award at the 11th edition of Bengaluru International Film Festival (Biffes). “When I was considering various options for Mookajjiya Kanasugalu, one name that popped up was Sharada’s. I asked her if she could be my Mookajji. However, as Sharada was seriously ill , she expressed her inability to spend a month in Udupi. She however said she could if the film was shot in Bengaluru. Her passion for acting had not waned, even when she was ailing,” recalls Sheshadri.

In fact, Sharada was also choosy and used to refuse characters, where there is no scope or challenge for her character. Sharada herself admitted once that the role of Gauri in Eradu Kanasau starring Dr Rajkumar was offered to her by makers Dorai-Bhagavan. But, Sharada in all humility explained her inability to essay that character. Then the opportunity went to yesteryear actor Kalpana.

After watching Vamshavriksha, renowned filmmaker Satyajit Ray described Sharada as "the only south Indian actress, he had met, who is intelligent too". Not taking the comment seriously, Sharada responded: "when we met, I spoke at length about the Indian cinema . He was perhaps impressed by that.” Similar was the reaction of Hrishikesh Mukherjee, he described Sharada as "goddess of acting" after watching Phaniyamma, directed by Prema Karanth.

Sharada was one of the most sought after actor after her debut performance in Vamshavriksha directed by Karanth and Karnad duo, produced by G. V Iyer, based on S. L Bhyrappa’s novel.

Sharada, who was interested in music, art, dance, theatre and could mesmerise anybody with her oratory skills especially in English. Sharada, an untrained actor, was a free spirited person and was determined to act much against the wishes of her father.“We came across Sharada and she clinched the role of Katyayini without any audition. Her refined sensibilities did not come in the way,”Girish Karnad had once said.

Kannada's parallel cinema loses its star

Another important filmmaker T.S. Nagabharana, who assisted B.V. Karanth and Karnad in honing Vamshavriksha, said: “When I first met Sharada, the question that popped up in my mind was if it was possible for her to essay the role of Katyayini, because of her sophistication. However, she belied my apprehension, because of her multi-faceted talent and made me admit that she was tailor made for the role.”

Vamshavriksha bagged two national and six Karnataka State film awards, besides being screened in various international film festivals.

Phaniyamma directed by Prema Karanth based on M. K. Indira's novel, focussed on the plight of a widow and her struggle for survival in the patriarchal system.

Her performance got critical acclaim and it was later felt, that, none other than Sharada would have justified the character. Besides getting the recognition of Best Kannada Feature Film at the National Awards in 1982, the film got three Karnataka State awards, besides the International Jury Award at Manheim Film Festival, Germany.

Actor Malavika Avinash, who was close to Sharada, recalling her association with the actor says; "Sharada was G V Iyer’s favourite actor. She essayed the role of Aryamba in Adi Shankaracharya. Those who worked with Iyer still remember Sharada delivering long paragraphs of Sanskrit dialogues without any hassles. Wearing the traditional Malayali costume Mundu and holding the copper pot, she used to complete the shot in one take."

"Had she desired, Sharada would have got glamorous characters and would have achieved success. Her choice of characters in parallel cinema was her faith in the art of acting. Never did she like the character of female lead singing songs and running around trees,” Malavika observes.

Besides these two landmark films, Sharada had acted in films of Siddalingiah, Bhootayyana Maga Ayyu and Hemavathi, Vatsalya Patha, Kankana, Maithri. She shared the screen with Rajinikanth in Ondu Premada Kathe.

Sharada made a a documentary, Kere Haadu, disturbed by the disappearing lakes in Bangalore. She also made a two-hour documentary on Mysuru Veene, which traces the history of the special Mysuru style, prevalent only in Karnataka and its most famous exponent the late, Doraiswamy Iyengar.

She took nine years to complete the documentary, which is one of the rare documentaries on the Veena culture of Karnataka. During a conversation with her, Sharada shared her desire to direct a documentary on the century-old heritage structures of Bengaluru.

Sharada, who lived following her creative pursuits, succumbed to cancer, which was bothering her for long. Her portrayal of Katyayini and Phaniyamma will linger on in the hearts of film lovers for all times to come.

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Printable version | Jun 22, 2021 5:24:14 AM |

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