One of the most versatile actors - simple and disciplined

One of the most versatile actors - simple and disciplined

Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi presenting and award to K S Ashwath (R). DH File Photo

He was the hero in his maiden movie ‘Stree Rathna’ directed  by K S Subramanyam that hit the screens in 1955. Sandhya (mother of former Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa) was the heroine.

Ashwath’s acting potential was noticed in the movie and won him accolades. There followed another film where he was the hero - ‘Kachadevayani’ also directed by Subramanyam. This movie did not see much success. Though he acted as hero opposite B Sarojadevi in his third movie ‘Kokilavani’ directed by S A Natarajan, Ashwath could not find the success he desired, as a hero. However, he was offered roles as supporting actor, which he accepted without any hang-ups.

With ‘Mahishasura Mardini’, ‘Dashavathaara’, ‘Bhakta Kanakadasa’, he established himself as a character actor. He went on to become the most sought after character artiste in majority of 372 films he had acted in. Be it any role; father, father-in-law, teacher, brother, grandfather, friend -Ashwath mesmerised cine goers. His last film was ‘Bhoopathi’ that had Darshan in the lead.  

Before foraying into films, he was staging plays at Krishna Chaitanya Nataka Sabha. His memorable plays include ‘Shanthi Nivasa’, ‘Bhakta Veera’. Ashwath had staged many plays in the lead role opposite Pandaribai.

Profile
He was born as Karaganahalli Subbaraya Ashwathanarayan ( K S Ashwath) on March 25, 1925, in Mysore. Karaganahalli in Holenarsipur taluk was his grandfather’s place, while his grandmother hailed from Mysore.
His early days was quite like a film story. Ashwath lost his mother when he was two-years-old. He also lost his father when he was 14. He grew under the tutelage of his aunt Thippamma, a widow who was also issueless. Thippamma earning Rs 17 as monthly salary as a teacher. For Ashwath, the class of discipline began here. He completed his primary and high school education at Dalwoy School. He had developed a liking for action movies in Hollywood, but had no money to  indulge himself. It was one of his friends, who knew of his penchant for movies who bought tickets to movies so Ashwath could see them.

Freedom struggle
Responding to the call of Mahatma Gandhiji, Ashwath plunged into freedom struggle. He had completed his junior intermediate by then. Ashwath’s aunt Thippamma died forcing Ashwath to bid good bye to studies. He moved into his sister’s house.

Marriage
Ashwath,18 then, married his childhood friend and aunt’s daughter Sharada. He has two sons and daughters. One of his sons- Shankar Ashwath is also into acting continuing his father’s rich legacy.

Simple and humble
 For those who knew K S Ashwath, he was a man who practiced discipline and embraced simplicity without any qualms throughout his life. He didn’t aspire for even a ‘paisa’ more than what he deserved.

Comedian Rathnakar who remained one of his close pals till the end, spoke about Ashwath’s early days in Kannada filmdom. Ashwath had resigned as a Food Inspector and come to Madras (now Chennai) in search of opportunities. He and his family, including wife and daughter, lived in a rented room at No 22, Rangaiah Street in Madras. Rathnakar and Sorat Ashwath who already had a few films to their credit were Ashwath’s neighbours. Another artiste from Karnataka, Anil Kumar was also residing in the same complex.
 
Ashwath had been roped in for a role in a movie being produced by Nagireddy under his banner ‘Vijaya Vahini Pictures’. A cab driver was entrusted with the task of picking and dropping Ashwath. The driver was scheduled to pick Ashwath at 6.30 am. Ashwath ,known for his discipline, would wait on the road daily, five minutes before the pick-up time. One day, the car was delayed. After waiting for a few minutes, Ashwath went to a hotel near by for a cup of coffee. In the meantime, the car arrived at Ashwath’s place.

Assuming that Ashwath might have already left, the driver returned to the shooting spot. Ashwath who returned to his place from the hotel, telephoned the person concerned and charged him for the ‘inconvenience’. The person on the other side, asked Ashwath to come on his own promising to reimburse the transportation charges.Nagireddy had been appraised of what had happened. He summoned Ashwath and the driver, who admitted that he was late as he had to stop for nearly half-an-hour at the railway crossing near Ashwath’s place. Nagireddy praised Ashwath by calling him ‘’truly the synonym of discipline’.

Only pepper
Once he was suffering from acute stomach ache. The doctor had advised him to use more of pepper than chilli. He asked his wife to prepare any dish, but not without using pepper. He reasoned that he would be forced to eat the dish prepared for others without pepper. Instead, it would be better to prepare dish with pepper for all. Moreover, no others in the family should suffer from stomach ache by eating food stuff without pepper, was his concern.

He deserved
Ashwath had given his call sheet to a producer for two days for a remuneration of Rs 5,000 per day. His portion of the shooting was completed in a day. The man at the helm of affairs in the unit  handed over Rs 10,000 to Ashwath according to the agreement. The following day, Ashwath went to the producer and returned Rs 5,000 saying; he had asked for the prescribed amount for two days of work. As he had completed his work in a day, he deserved only the day’s amount. This was Ashwath who didn’t aspire for more than what he was entitled for.

‘Chamaiah Meshtru’
However, it was the role of ‘Chamaiah Meshtru’ in Puttanna Kanagal’s blockbuster ‘Naagara Haavu’  that catapulted Ashwath to fame and gave him a big break. The role also cemented his position as an actor par excellence. His other memorable movies include; Satya Harishchandra, Uyyale, Nanda Deepa, Nava Jeevana, Anna Thangi, Nyayave Devaru, Jenu Goodu, Kasturi Nivasa, Vasantha Geetha, Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma, Hrudaya Haadithu, Bayalu Daari, Gaalimathu, Hosa Belaku, Anuraga Aralithu, Karna to name a few.

Sudden decision
Ashwath was at the peak of his career, when suddenly on June 1, 1995, he announced that he was quitting acting sending shockj waves among his fans. The film fraternity appealed to him to reconsider his decision, but to no avail.After six years, Parvathamma Rajakumar approached him and offered a role in Dr Rajkumar starrer ‘Shabdavedi’. Ashwath however, accepted the offer.

'Kalashri'
Ashwath who was residing in his own house near Sri Rama Mandira in Shivarampet, decided to build a new two-storeyed house in Saraswathipuram. Ashwath was racking his head for a suitable name to christen his dream house, that could well depict his bonding with art and also ‘Lakshmi’ (money). Sorat Ashwath, a lyricist of yore also a close friend of Ashwath suggested; Kalashri. ‘Kala’ denotes Art (kale in Kannada) and ‘Sri’ denotes ‘Lakshmi’. It was how Sorat Ashwath christened Ashwath’s newly built home.

Bonding with Raj
At a time, when most actors were reluctant to play the role of father for none other than Rajkumar, Ashwath readily took omn the job. Ashwath and Rajkumar together had acted in about 72 films. With two actors of calibre infusing life into the roles it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say, they were looking ‘real’ in ‘reel’ life too. Moreover, Ashwath and Rajkumar had also acted in several plays staged under the auspices of Kannada Chalanachitra Nataka Mandali.

Awards
A plethora of awards that came his way include, Dr Rajkumar Award 1993-94, Kannada Rajyotsava Award -1981, Shanthaveri Gopalagowda Award- 2005, Kannada Kayakashri Award-2006, Hamsarathna Award-1996 and Sarthaka Suvarna Award. ‘Navajeevana’ and ‘Miss Leelavathi’ the films he had acted in had won national awards. He had won best supporting actor awards for ‘Namma Makkalu’ in 1968, Naagara Haavu in 1972-73 and Muththina Haara in 1990.
He had bagged best supporting award for the seven consecutive years from Madras Film Fans Association.

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