Kalasamrat S Narayan hails from Bhadravati. Due to a “personal problem”, he left home and one day just started “walking to Bengaluru”. After doing odd jobs here, he ended up in Chennai and met director Raj Kishore, who was looking for someone who would write scripts for him in Kannada. That is how S Narayan’s journey in films began. He started working with Raj Kishore and AT Raghu as an assistant director and is the only director after Singeetam Srinivasa Rao, to direct the crew of Rajkumar and his three sons. Besides that he has also made films with Vishnuvardhan, Jaggesh, Ravichandra and Ramesh Aravind to name a few, each of which went on to be huge hits.
Besides directing, Narayan has also donned the hats of an actor, producer, screenwriter, composer and lyricist. He is one of the few directors, who is comfortable making films in the genre of romance, comedy and family dramas. Narayan goes back in time and narrates the story behind the making of his debut film
“ Chaitrada Premanjali happened when I was working as an associate director for another film, where Raghuveer was the hero. The film was produced by the actor himself. Raghuveer was a new actor, who got nervous during the shoot and was finding it tough to follow the director’s instructions.
So I started tutoring him. I would train him to act every night and he would act with ease the next day. The director saw this and broke the entire script and gave it to me to train Raghuveer in acting. I worked with him for a whole month after which the shooting commenced and went on smoothly.
Raghuveer loved the way I taught him and asked me to write a story for his next film. I wrote Chiatrada Premanjali for him. Then, we booked Raj Kishore as the director, who loved the story but suggested the film be made with Shashi Kumar in the lead.
Raghuveer was upset and approached Rajender Singh Babu, who also said the same. That time Shashi was a young and in-demand hero. So again the director was changed. I accompanied Raghuveer to meet directors and read out the dialogues. We approached 18 directors, including Bharatiraja and Priyadarshan, narrating the story of Chaitrada Premanjali to each of them. But none were ready to direct the film with Raghuveer as the hero. All 18 rejected him as the lead.
Then they asked me to direct the film. I was an associate director and should have been thrilled when offered to direct this film. Instead, I was terrified, because 18 legendary directors had rejected the hero. I freaked out wondering if my debut as a director with this film could kill my future in films. So I told him I was not yet ready to become a director and still had a lot to learn.
But they insisted and I spoke frankly about my fears that if my debut directorial did not take off, my future would be ruined and I would feel uncomfortable to go back and work as an associate director again. This was my daily bread and I had to earn to feed my family. Raghuveer’s father assured me that if this film failed, he would make a film with the hero of my choice and produce it himself with the budget I wanted.
I took a month’s break to rewrite the script and changed the presentation style. Many had rejected the hero. So I re-wrote the script with the agenda that instead of making people come to see the hero, they should be drawn to the theatre to watch my powerful cinema. Once that was tackled, I was ready to direct.
I faced many challenges during the making of the film. I was given nine lakhs and a 30-day time schedule to complete the project. Hence, I took more newcomers in my my team, but was keen that Hamsalekha alone to do the music for my film. He was extremely busy. Those days, there were three studios in Bengaluru – Prasad, Chamundershwari and Sanket. And Hamsalekha would be booked in all three!
He had no time to compose for me and would say, ‘ Mari (little one), I have no time to sit with you. But come every day and sit with me as I am visited by Ravichandran, Rajender Singh Babu, KV Raju, Singeetham Srinivas and Nagabharana. I will be composing songs for them and you can pick any tune they reject. Record it and let me know, so we can work with that for your film’.
I had no money for even a bus ticket. So I would walk to every studio and sit amongst these great people, covered in sweat and grime. I never asked for food, but took whatever they offered me. The only consolation was that I was sitting amidst great people.
Hamsalekha would compose great tunes and I would secretly say a silent prayer that each be rejected by the big directors, which they did. I selected five tunes for Chaitrada..., which went on to be sensational hits.
Next Hamsalekha had to write the lyrics for the songs, but had absolutely no time. I would go to him everyday for six months and he did not have the time to even write six alphabets for me. I was tensed as I had to maintain my family and had no other source of income.
One day, he invited me to accompany him to Ravichandran’s sister’s wedding in Chennai saying he would write the songs during the journey. I did, but during the journey he spoke about everything else but the songs. We stayed in the same hotel and I followed him like a lamb. Each time he laughed and joked, I would cry out in my heart ‘stop talking sir and write the songs for me’.
We returned to our room at midnight and had to leave at 4 am. Just as I was regretting my trip, he called me, took a paper and pen and started penning the lyrics at midnight. I was shocked as midnight is the time of ghosts and horror and this genius said he would write love sings for me! I freaked out again, but he did write the songs and the rest is history. In two hours he wrote five extraordinary songs. It was 2.30 am by the time he was done. That is why we say Kavisamaya is divine as when a poet is inspired, no one can stop him.
We also gave the lead song “Chaitrada Premajanli’ to be telecast on DD for Chitramanjari. Dr Rajkumar saw that very song and loved it. He disguised himself, watched the film in a theatre and then called me to meet him, personally. That was the biggest complement for me.
The opening day of the film was a big thrill for me. I hardly slept the previous night. Next morning, I again walked from my home in Basaveshwar Nagar to Aparna Theatre just to see the audience’s reaction. My heart skipped a beat when I saw the ‘house-full’ board!
Once inside I saw people clapping and enjoying every shot. My eyes welled up with tears. Till date, that has been the best day of my life.
This column chronicles filmakers' first efforts
As told to Shilpa Sebastian R