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KNT Sastry: Conscientious filmmaker

 Nandita Das, Rupadevi and Tanikella Bharani in ‘Kamli’

Nandita Das, Rupadevi and Tanikella Bharani in ‘Kamli’

It was on March 19, 2018, that I received a call from KNT Sastry. Presuming that he would be talking about his next movie (after Shaanu ), I answered the call. But to my surprise it was not Sastry who had called me, but his son Jayadev. He told me that his father, driving a two-wheeler, had met with an accident. “After two months in the hospital, we brought him home 10 days ago. He had stopped driving the two-wheeler some years ago. But that day, despite our warning, he went for a joy ride and the accident resulted in a serious head injury, impairing his memory,” he said, as I listened in stunned silence.

 KNT Sastry

KNT Sastry

However, his next words came as a soothing relief. “Today, we are happy to see him respond to an article published in The Hindu on Bhanumathi Ramakrishna, which I read out to him,” Jayadev said. It was an article on the song, Oho Paavuramaa rendered by Bhanumathi in Swargaseema , published in the ‘Rewind’ column. “I showed him the picture of Bhanumathi garu , published along with the article. After so many days, he spoke at length about her, about you and your colleague BK Easwar and the time he had spent at the Vijayachitra office. I want to share this with you,” he added. I felt happy that KNT was on the path of recovery.

Interestingly, it was KNT Sastry who had published Bhanumathi’s autobiography, Nalo Nenu, serialised in Vijayachitra . Nalo Nenu won the prize for the best book on cinema at the national film awards for Bhanumathi Ramakrishna and as the publisher, Sastry too received the honours. That was his second award after winning the best film critic award earlier.

Writing in Telugu

Passionate about cinema, though he had started his career as a scribe and had written several articles on Indian and world cinema in various publications, including The Hindu (as KNT Sastry and Kanala NTS), Kanala Nanjunda Tirumala Sastry ultimately reached his goal of making quality films. Though brought up and educated in Kolar with Kannada as his medium, Sastry learnt Telugu and not only won a national award for his book on Telugu cinema written in Telugu ( Apuroopa Chitraalu ) but bagged a couple of national awards for his Telugu directorial, including the documentary on the over 100-year-old Surabhi Nataka Samajam and the best debut director award for Tiladaanam.

After watching the movie Sindooram , impressed by their performance, Sastry toyed with the idea of taking either Ravi Teja or Brahmaji for the lead role in Tiladaanam . Ravi Teja liked the subject, but at that time he was doing a film ( Idiot) with Puri Jagannath, which he hoped would lead him to stardom. He politely declined Sastry’s offer, saying that signing an offbeat movie at that juncture might not be a wise move for him. Sastry signed the equally talented Brahmaji.

Soundarya to Nandita Das

Despite giving sterling performances in many a film, noted actress Soundarya had one disappointment — that she had not won the coveted national award. After showing his films to her, KNT approached the versatile actress with a bound script. Soundarya was so impressed with it that she herself volunteered to produce the movie. Even the shooting dates were finalised. But fate willed it otherwise. Soundarya met with a fatal air crash. Later, KNT made the movie , Kamli , with Nandita Das. It won the national award for the best feature film in Telugu, besides the Nandi award as the best actress for Nandita Das. Some of Sastry’s works, including Kamli , were shown at international film festivals.

My acquaintance with Sastry dates back to over three decades. He was commissioned by the National Film Archives of India to write a monograph on L V Prasad. For material and guidance he used to visit our office. My senior colleague B K Easwar introduced him to L V Prasad. He later made several visits to our office and library besides contributing articles for Vijayachitra on ‘Cinema and Literature.’ With his friendly nature he made friends easily. While writing an article on his Kannada movie, Sneha Geethe , I gave the headline ‘Conscientious Filmmaker.’ His dedication towards cinema won him many admirers, accolades and awards.

Too soon to bid adieu, dear K N T Sastry.


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Printable version | Aug 8, 2022 11:49:02 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/knt-sastry-conscientious-filmmaker/article24967357.ece