Bengaluru International Film Festival

Forever remembered in Jaganmohini

Veteran Kannada film actress, Harini, at 'Maneyangaladalli Matukathe', a monthly interaction programme organised by the Kannada and Culture Department, in Bangalore on May 21, 2005.
Photo: K. Gopinathan

Veteran Kannada film actress, Harini, at 'Maneyangaladalli Matukathe', a monthly interaction programme organised by the Kannada and Culture Department, in Bangalore on May 21, 2005. Photo: K. Gopinathan   | Photo Credit: K_Gopinathan

A retrospective of veteran Kannada actor Harini will be showing at the 9th edition of Biffes

Kannada cinema lovers will still remember the 1951 film Jaganmohini by Shankar Singh. The craze this film created is phenomenal. It is said that some watched the film more than 25 times. There’s the story that some villagers even sold their buffaloes to watch the film over and over again. Jaganmohini created a record of sorts by running 36 uninterrupted weeks.

What drew people into the cinemas was the charm of it’s 14-year-old actor Harini. Interestingly the actor was not allowed to watch the film, because she was considered under-age!

And Harini drew much attention, like Sharmila Tagore did, because she wore a swimsuit in this film. At that age, she confesses, she was naive enough not to judge it; she simply thought she looked beautiful. But people began to mock her for it.

She turned out to be a star, even before she realised the importance of being a star. She played heroine, vamp and comedienne with aplomb. Harini went on to be honoured with the national award for her performance in Nanda Deepa and Mangala Muhurta in the 60s. She left an indelible impression on the minds of the people through her performance in Naandi. Four of Harini’s films are being screened at the ongoing Bengaluru International Film Festival (Biffes) in the retrospective section.

Unlike other top stars of her time, Harini did not venture into other south Indian language film industries. She limited herself to Kannada films. According to Harini's own admission, her father’s strictness in the contracts his daughter entered into, also made her very choosy about her roles. But in the 30-odd films she accepted, Harini did her best.

She retired after her stellar performance in Sati Sukanya (1967), even though she was getting several offers. In 1972, she married B.S. Rao, a satellite broadcasting expert who was helping the Indian space programme. Her brothers Vadiraj and Jawahar continued to make films, for which she turned producer. Harini stuck to her decision not to go before the arc lights again, even in the family productions, which offered tailor-made roles for her. Harini’s father was freedom fighter Srinivasa Paniyadi from Udupi. She hardly knew Kannada because her family lived in Madurai. Srinivasa Paniyadi was a playwright too - a great influence on the daughter. Their neighbour was a film producer, who picked the seven-year-old girl for young Krishna’s role in the film Haridasa. Then she acted in three other films as a child artiste. Yet, when chosen for Jaganmohini Harini says she had no ambitions to stick on in tinsel town.

The success of her first film Jaganmohini catapulted Harini into stardom in the Kannada film industry. Over the next two decades, she remained a heroine doing films such as Kanyadana, Vidhivasha, Sarvajnamurthy, Nanda Deepa, and Naandi. Naandi was said to be inspired by the Hindi film Koshish starring Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bachchan. It is said that Harini, along with her co-star in the film, Dr. Rajkumar used to go to schools for the speech impaired to study their behaviour -- such was her commitment to the profession. It was a rather well-made film about the hearing and speech impaired, and when the film did not get any awards, there were angry reactions in film circles. But the success of the film ensured that she was referred to as “Naandi Harini”.

For her contribution to Kannada cinema, the Karnataka government conferred on her the Dr. Rajkumar Award in 2015. During her interaction at the “meet your star” Belli-Hejje programme, she humbly dedicated her success in films to film makers M.V. Krishnaswamy, R. Nagendra Rao, M.R. Vittal and N. Lakshminarayan, who groomed her as an actor.

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Printable version | May 28, 2020 9:03:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/Forever-remembered-in-Jaganmohini/article17138010.ece

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