Cutting the action

Stopping film shoots

Cutting the action

With Sandalwood legend Shankar Nag sliding into the past, master Manjunath –– renowned as Swami –– little active on screen, the romance with one of India’s most celebrated television serials, Malgudi Days, is dwindling. A recent addition to the list of things to disappear from active participation in the field of cinema or television is Kasturi
Akka’s (Akka) house that played abode to Swami!

Yes, cut! that’s what echoes in this 115-year-old house in Agumbe in Shimoga district, Karnataka, which will no more feature on the silver screen or on our television sets. No crowds will ever gather outside Akka’s house to witness a film shooting or gorge at their favourite stars ever again.

A stalwart in its own right, Akka’s house, locked in the serenity of the Western Ghats, surviving rains, naxals and others, managed to lend itself to many a film with the most recent and last being Sudeep’s directorial debut My Autograph, and the most famous —— Sandalwood’s visionary Shankar Nag’s Malgudi Days. But never will it be the same now, for, Kasturi Akka, the owner of the house believes: enough is enough...

For produciton houses and all of us who remember late Shankar Nag (Nagarakatte) and one of India’s most celebrated television serials Malgudi Days, or Ramanad Sagar’s Vikram Aur Betal directed by  Prem Sagar, this is a big loss, though not unrivalled may be; and for those who don’t, its still a tale worth knowing!

Although this was not the only place that was featured from Agumbe in Malgudi Days, people say that this is the only one that remains like it was then (1986), besides being Swami’s abode. The others, including the Agumbe school that was featured, has changed in structure, becoming more modern with changing times.

Of course, some parts of Akka’s house have changed –– with mud-floors giving way to red-oxide and a few window panes losing their trademark wood work, but by and large the house has retained its orignial form, and is still in great condition. So, what is it that is so strong about this two storied stone house with tiled roof? That leads us to another legend, by name: Sir Mokshagundam Visveswaraya.

“The house initially was a three storied one, but then we brought down the thrid floor on Visveswaraya’s suggestion,” Akka observes little pride, even as her eyes glow in excitement, adding that when Sir M V had paid a visit to the house while at Agumbe, he had warned that the house would collapse in 30 years if the third floor continues and thus the change. True to his propostion, the house is a grand 115-years-old now!

Akka also quietly points out that, yes the house has also been visited by the Dewan of Mysore, the Wodeyar, Dharmastala’s Virendra Hegde, among many others. It also features in the website But then, like the jungle keeps a low profile, so does the house. Ask Akka, why then, did she decide to stop lending the legendary house for shooting? She replies: Now it’s sort of hard as there are children studying at home and these things are just a distraction for growing children.

Wow! doesn’t sound like a 65-year-old lady does she? But then, yes, these words of wisdom are for real, as one can find enough proof if one were to pay a visit to her house. Every evening children queue-up in front of her for the routine ‘school diary inspection’ proccess, and report after completion of the assigments.

What about the money that it could have fetched if it were to continue the old way remains another question. The reply, however, is What Money? I never accepted any money for Malgudi Days or Vikram Aur Betal, but whatever money the subsequent film production houses paid, I am told is less than one tenth the rate that others charged.

It was never about money for us, she says, adding, they came, they liked and we lent it... All said and done, as the famous saying goes, all good things come to an end, and so has the relationship between this house and production units.

But this does not mean that there are no ways of re-living memories  that the place where master Manjunath, renowned as Sawmi for his performance in the Malgudi Days, based on the legendary R K Lakshman’s short stories –—  shot to fame. For, Akka’s house is one of the only two places of accomodation at Agumbe —— for those without relatives.

Go there, enjoy the nature, re-visit Malgudi Days!

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