In a career spanning nearly eight decades, Lata Mangeshkar sang two film songs in Kannada. Both were from the film Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna released in 1967.
The song “Bellana Belagayitu” was in Raag Bhupali and “Ellare Iratheero, Endara Bartheero” was in a folk song format. Lata Mangeshkar’s sisters Usha Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle have also sung a song each for the film. In fact, the sisters sang the songs for free when they came to know that it was about a freedom fighter.
Lata Mangeshkar’s understanding of the nuances of the northern Karnataka dialect is particularly visible in “Ellare Iratheero”, which reflects the pangs of separation between a mother and her son. But, “Bellana Belagayitu” became more popular as it was in semi- classical in style, said A.L. Nagur, professor from SECAB College in Vijayapura who has written a book about Kannada classics.
Lakshman Beralekar, from the Bombay film industry, scored the film’s music. “Bellane Belagayitu” was written by Bhujendra Mahishawadi, a poet from Athani, and “Ellare Iratheero” was by Pundalika B. Dhuttaragi, who later rose to fame as the writer of the play that was adapted as “Sampattige Sawal” starring Dr. Rajkumar.
Belagavi based physical education teacher Shivashankar Aralimatti and businessman Ananth Hiregoudar were the producers for the film. The story goes that Mr. Hiregoudar convinced Mr. Beralekar to work on the film and invited the Mangeshkar sisters to sing. Mr. Hiregoudar, who belongs to a Belagavi-based Jain trading family had family connections in Kolhapur.
“We are eternally grateful to the Mangeshkar sisters. It is sad that Lata Mangeshkar did not sing any more songs in Kannada,’’ Mr. Aralimatti, the 94-year-old who lives in Belagavi, said.
That the sisters sang the songs for free came as a relief to Mr. Aralimatti and Mr. Hiregoudar, who were struggling to arrange finances. The film suffered delays due to financial difficulties and had to take on board H.S. Khat from Kolhapur as chief producer after he assured to help.
The film featured Virupakshayya S. Patil, a theatre actor from Dharwad, and Kamini Kadam, a singer-actor who hailed from Belagavi before making it big in Marathi and Hindi films. Hindi actor Abhi Bhattacharya played the role of British officer Thackeray. Most of the cast and crew, including the heroine Kamini Kadam, was from the Marathi theatre and Marathi film industry in Mumbai, though some of them had roots in Karnataka.
Theatre personality Shirish Joshi, who has known Mr. Aralimatti for several years, recalls that they had wanted Dr. Rajkumar to play Sangolli Rayanna. But they could not get the star’s call sheet. Dr. Rajkumar had acted in “Kittur Channamma” in 1961.
“It was an independent movie in every sense. It was not backed by any huge banner. It was the creative product of a few committed people with limited means,” Mr. Joshi said.