Remembering Kannada cinema legend Puttanna Kanagal

As iconic filmmaker Puttanna Kanagal’s 86th birth anniversary falls on December 1, colleagues remember his fondness for literature among other things

Updated - November 29, 2019 03:49 pm IST

Published - November 29, 2019 03:08 pm IST

December 1 is the 86th birth anniversary of the legendary film maker Puttanna Kanagal. The man is known for films like Kappu Bilupu, Gejje Pooje, Sharapanjara, Naagarahaavu, Shubhamangala and Ranganayaki to name a few, all of which are considered classics today.

His films were not only appreciated by the critics but also by the audience. History shows that his films ran for at least a 100 days in theatres across the State.

And, who can forget Naagarahavu ? The film, which was the debut of the late actor, Dr Vishnuvardhan, who went on to become a super star. The film also made actor Aarathi a household name. Ambareesh’s iconic dialogue, “ Yak bulbul maatadakilva ?” is remembered till date.

Naagarahavu was remade in Hindi as Zehreela Insaan, also directed by Kanagal starring Rishi Kapoor and Maushmi Chatterjee.

Kanagal’s leading women were always portrayed as strong characters. Fans of the director and the Kannada film industry have lined up a host of events to celebrate the legendary ffilmmaker’s birthday.

MetroPlus talks to a few people who have worked with Kanagal, also known as Chitra Brahma (God of films), and in their own way reveal the man and director that he was.

Cinematographer BS Basavaraj

A close friend and associate of Kanagal, who also worked as a cinematographer for many of his films, says, “One thing I can never forget is the film Sharapanjara , which was made with Kalpana and Gangadhar in the lead. The film dealt with a woman’s mental illness and how the society and her reacts to it. The film was remade in Telugu by as Krishnaveni with Krishnam Raju and Vanisri in the lead. I still remember how the producer, UV Suryanarayana Raju, was impressed with Sharapanjara and told Kanagal ‘I want the film to be remade as it is in Kannada, shot-by-shot, scene-by-scene’. That I think is the biggest compliment a director can ever get. Kanagal always chose novels and people would eagerly await for the release of his films. Today his films are studied by every filmmaker and I believe he can never be replaced ever.”

Actor Srinath

“It was my ambition that I work with Kanagal. When I got the chance to work with him in Shubhamanagala , I was already 31 films old. But when I was with him, I forgot all that I had learnt in my career. Instead I just surrendered myself completely to him.

He taught me the a,b,c about acting, how an artiste should be, how one should walk, deliver the dialogues and so on. I not only learnt professional lessons from him but also about life. I consider him as my teacher. He made my life.”

When Kanagal was going through a bad patch personally and professionally, it is no secret that it was Srinath who helped organise the finaces and helped Kanagal helm the film Manasa Sarovara. “ It was my duty. My dharma. He helped me grow as an artiste and when he was down, I had to give it back to him as my gurudakshina . And as a return gift, he too projected me as a totally different actor, which I am remembered for till date. He was way ahead of his time. He also read voraciously and was also a knowledgeable man. He was a complete director. I cannot forget him, but remember him every second of my life. His films are eternal and suitable for every generation.

He would observe us keenly and help us build our character around those traits. The best thing about working with Kanagal was that we did not act, but became and lived the character.

Film director PH Vishwanath

I worked as an associate with Kanagal for almost eight years. I met him when I was still in school. He had come to my home town, Chitradurga to shoot for Naagarahavu . I had sneaked out of class and gone to watch him. When I met him, I asked him if I could work with him. He sent me back saying, I needed to study!

I was disappointed, but my heart was just not in studies. So, I quit studies, and came to Bengaluru to meet him. It took me six months to see him again. This time, I took my school teacher to influence Kanagal to take me to work with him.

When he met me, he bought me breakfast, gave me ₹100 and told me to go back home. He told me ‘cinema looks great from the outside, but is tough and hard on one’s life from the inside’. I ate the food, but refused the money. Instead I asked him to give me some work. Finally, he smiled and took me on his team. I was just out of school, and was not trained in any field, yet took me in as his associate director. That became my training field. I worked with him from as an associate director from College Ranga to Manasa Sarovara, almost seven films. He saw every film, story and scene with a different perspective. He did not need a whole story. All he needed was one thread and he would brilliantly weave a powerful story around that.

HN Maruthi, producer

We have produced and distributed almost every film of Kanagal. Right from Belli Moda, Kappu Bilipu, Gejje pooje, Upasane and all his films ran for 100 days. People would wait for his films. The speciality was that his films had great music and lyrics too.

Beli Hendthi was a film made entirely by us and we had also roped in an American artiste for the film. So he would drive her every day from Bengaluru to Ramnagara as there were no good hotels there then. And, he would be on location at sharp 7 am.

We had to shoot a song, “Rangenahalliyage” for the film and it rained for 10 days and on all 10 days, he was on the set at 7 am holding an umbrella. Such was his passion and dedication.

As far as I know, Kanagal never hired a dance director. He himself would choreograph the song with his assistants. I don’t think there was anything he did not know, be it direction, music, camera, costumes or anything, he knew it all and was involved in all.

He was also very particular about how he wanted the colour palette to look on screen. For one song, the right costume and colour was not ready, so he just packed up and left.

He would also do anything to complete a film, we have seen him work tirelessly to complete a song or a schedule so time and money is not wasted.

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