A one-time film star, as unlikely as can be

A one-time film star, as unlikely as can be

For someone who has been a film actor and a star in over 300 plays, Subashchandra Padival is modest, accessible and refreshingly devoid of the preening that marks even bit performers in films.

The down-to-earth attitude is traceable perhaps to the fact that he works with earth. Padival is a farmer.

For someone who has the credit of being one of the two lead performers in the first-ever Tulu historical film - Koti-Chennayya, Padival is completely unaffected by his comparative lack of fame.

Padival’s entry into films was accidental. In 1973, he came across an advertisement in a Kannada daily, seeking would-be actors for ‘Koti-Chennayya’ directed by Vishnu Kumar and went to Katpadi near Udupi to attend the selection.

“There were a large number of people waiting for the selection, so we decided to go to Sri Krishna Mutt in Udupi and returned in the evening. As I weighed 95 kg then, I, at best, expected a small role, that too considering that I had acted in Tulu plays,” he recalls.

“Director Vishnu Kumar asked me to deliver a line - “Satyad batthinakleg thigaled saadi korpa, anyayad batthinakleg sooryad saadi korpa” (We will show the way for the honest and we will show knife to unjust). As I successfully delivered the dialogue in the first attempt, he asked me to remove my shirt. When he saw my physique, he said, ‘Why didn’t you come in the morning. I would have selected you then,’”

Padival’s joy knew no bounds when he was selected for the role of Koti, one of his heroes. Koti and Chennayya are folk heroes revered as protectors of people in Dakshina Kannada, who were martyred about 500 years ago.

The shooting of the film was no labour for Padival. Enacting scenes portraying ploughing, kambala (buffalo race) and agriculture activities were like a cake walk for the farmer. Padival remembers each scene and each spot vividly.

“Be it the fighting scenes in Baraadi Boodu (Karkala) or scenes at Padubidri, the 1,000-pillar basadi at Moodbidri or the last scene when Koti and Chennayya die in combat at Bailoor (near Karkala), everything is fresh in my memory,” he says.

The film ran for 150 days in Jyothi theatre in Mangalore and 125 days in Alankar theatre in Udupi. It also had a month-long run at Capitol in Mumbai and 75 days each in Moodbidri and Puttur. The evergreen song in the movie ‘Ekkasaka, Ekkasaka’ was written by Prof B A Vivek Rai, Tulu and Kannada scholar who was formerly vice-chancellor of Hampi university.

The very next year, Padival played Capt Raghu’s role in K N Tailor’s Yer Malthina Thappu (1974). The female lead was the evergreen Kalpana. The couple’s marriage scene was shot at the famous Mirajkar bunglow in Mangalore.

Padival also acted in the 2006-film ‘Shudda’ which won several awards. In fact, the film was also screened in the US, England and Germany. The P N Ramachandra-directed film won ‘best film’ in the Indian Competition Section at the Osian's Cinefan Festival of Asian Film held at New Delhi, 2006. and also ‘best film’ at the Karnataka Mini Digital Film Festival, India 2007.

More than 300 plays

Padival’s attachment with Tulu plays dates back to 1950s when he was part of almost every Tulu play in the region. Starting from Akka Pakka (he was in 4th standard then) to the Mahakavi Rathnakaravarni (2002) staged as a part of Mahamastakabhisheka in Karkala, Padival would have acted in more than 300 plays. Samrat Shahajan, Samrat Ashok, Chandragupta, Anguli Mala, Kali Kantirava and Veerarani Abbakkadevi are some of them.

Mention awards, and the 66-year-old Padival smiles. “I don’t want to buy awards,” he smiles again and adds that he is not interested in them either. He leads a quiet life with his wife Sadhvi at their 500-year-old ancestral house in Kallamundkoor, near Kinnigoli in Dakshina Kannada.

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