An attempt to retell history of Kannada’s first talkie

The jacket of a gramophone record of Sati Sulochana.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Sati Sulochana, the first Kannada talkie, was released on March 3 in 1934, and the day is now marked as Kannada Cinema Day. Details of what went into the making of this film are being pieced together now, thanks some newly found material. This might help rewrite the history of the infancy of Kannada cinema.

Till date, it was believed that Sati Sulochana had 18 songs. Now, a gramophone record jacket, found in the private archive of writer Vijaya Subbaraj — whose father, Seetharam, worked with South India Movietone that produced the film — shows it had as many as 30 songs.

Belying the notion that the first four talkie films of Kannada had no recorded sound tracks, the record jacket testifies to the presence of recorded sound track and that harmonium was used for the score.

Sati Sulochana, directed by Yaragudipati Varada Rao (Y.V. Rao), was released in Paramount theatre here 85 years ago. Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy, six years ago, declared March 3 as Kannada Cinema Day.

Fact sheet
  • ‘Sati Sulochana’, directed by Y.V. Rao, was shot in Chhatrapati Studio, Kolhapur, for two months
  • Actors included Subbaiah Naidu, R. Nagendra Rao, Tripuramba, and Y.V. Rao
  • The film was made with an investment of ₹40,000
  • The 173-minute-long film was released in Paramount cinema near city market

Ms. Subbaraj handed over priceless materials related to the film, including screenplay of some of the scenes, lyrics of the songs, articles, poster, photographs, newspaper reports, and brochures, to film historian N.S. Sridharamurthy. He is now putting together the pieces of evidences to reconstruct the history of Sati Sulochana.

Ms. Subbaraj told The Hindu, “There was some material in our house. Also, my paternal uncle C.T. Sheshachalam had joined Gubbi company [Gubbi Veeranna’s theatre company] when he was 10. He played the role of Narada in the film Sati Sulochana. Sheshachalam’s daughter had got some archival material of the film from him and she handed them over to me. I gave them to Mr. Sridharamurthy hoping that history of the first Kannada talkie should be re-written.”

Mr. Sridharamurthy said he was surprised at the materials found. The materials found reveal that 8 RMP (revolutions per minute; speed at which a record is played) gramophone records of Sati Sulochana were imported from Columbia Records. Publicity material found mentions that the film has “melodious music, sweet sound and distinct dialogue”.

Mr. Sridharamurthy said, “The sad thing is that we have the gramophone record jacket but not gramophone record or celluloid reels of the film. I even checked with the family of producers. They have nothing pertaining to the film.”

According to Mr. Sridharamurthy, rewriting the history of Sati Sulochana would be a painstaking exercise. “I think the making of Sati Sulochana demands a documentary film. It also deserves a feature film like Harishchandrachi Factory, which is about the making of first Indian feature film Raja Harishchandra,” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2022 7:23:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/an-attempt-to-retell-history-of-kannadas-first-talkie/article26421496.ece

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