MVK: Master story teller, film maker

 Surely, his 50-year friendship with the world of films is not something to be just wiped off the slate?  As his countless friends and admirers will agree, he was not one who could be easily forgotten.

A carefree nonconformist all his life, MVK, who cared little for public opinion, left a lasting impression on every one who came into his orbit during his colourful career. And, what a career!

It brought him into that inner circle of film icons like George Sanders and Ingrid Bergman; acclaimed directors like Roberto Rosselini and Satyajit Ray; cultural luminaries like Pablo Neruda and Henri Cartier Bresson; or, nearer home, literary celebrities like R K Narayan and R K Laxman. They were household names to ‘Kittu’ the master story teller who could regale them with his abundant humour and charm. They did not intimidate him. Just as public recognition did not overpower him. He treated both with casual unconcern.

If ever MVK had a passion, it was to make a good film. Like all great artistes, he despised mediocrity. His masterpiece, ‘Subba Sastry’ is an example of his cinematographic skills. Just like his portrayal of that ‘gentle knight of music,’ the veena maestro, Doraiswamy Iyengar. He put his soul into his work, unmindful of the returns or the critics.

He got his first stint in serious film making when he shot Viaggio in Italia starring the immortal Ingrid Bergman. Assisted by no less a cameraman than Aldo Tonti himself, this was the pinnacle of success for the homely boy from Melkote, who had earlier shocked his orthodox Vaishnavite family when he acted in a film himself with the fabulous T Suryakumari and well-known dancer, Padmini – both famous stars of another decade.

Undaunted by his detractors during those early escapades into the naughty world of films and film stars, this one time teacher from Maharaja’s College, Mysore, travelled far and wide in international filmdom until he finally qualified as a film maker himself in the Parisien Institute of High Cinematographic Studies in France.

Eventful journey

It was a long and eventful journey from a quiet temple town in South India to the plush ambience of world cinema.

Only he could describe those glitzy, sometimes, bizarre experiences of that flamboyant world, with his typical panache and wit. Even the final phase of MVK’s career in the stifling corridors of the I&B ministry’s Films Division did not kill his humour or his free spirit. He had a healthy irreverence for bureaucratic high-handedness, and simply walked out of its shackles with the indifference that it deserved.

A free man thereafter, he dabbled in many ventures, undeterred by failures and unawed by successes. Well into his 80s, he called up this writer one morning  to ask “Will you write a script on the girl child for me? I want this to be my swan song,” he laughed. The project never materialised, but that was Kittu, the indefatigable film maker, who even offered to teach film appreciation in a nearby college to undergraduates!

Apart from his professional skills, MVK will always be remembered as the man who recounted endless stories in chaste Kannada about the good old days in Mysore, “the home of silk and jasmine, ivory and sandalwood.” I never tired of listening to him about those halcyon days in an untroubled world. Seated on a wide swing in the garden of his old world haven in Bangalore, he became the symbol of a glorious era that is gone forever.

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