He was the male lead in his maiden movie Stree Rathna directed by K S Subramanyam was released in 1955. Sandhya (mother of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa) was the heroine. Ashwath’s acting potential was noticed in the movie bringing him accolades. It was also followed by the leading role in another film, by Subramanyam, Kachadevayani. To Ashwath’s bad luck, the movie bombed.
Alhough he again had the lead role opposite B Saroja Devi in his third movie Kokilavani directed by S A Natarajan, offers to play hero’s role had began to elude him.
Not deterred, he began accepting the role of supporting actor in movies like Mahishasura Mardini, Dashavathaara, Bhakta Kanakadasa. He went on to act in 370 films.
His last film was Bhoopathi with Darshan in the lead. Before beginning to act in films, Ashwath took part in plays at Krishna Chaitanya Nataka Sabha. Notable plays include Shanthi Nivasa and Bhakta Veera.
However, it was the role of Chamayya Meshtru in Puttanna Kanagal’s blockbuster movie Naagara Haavu that catapulted Ashwath to fame giving him a big break. Other memorable movies include Satya Harishchandra, Uyyale, Nandadeepa, 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.
At the peak of his career, on June 1, 1995 Ashwath announced he was quitting acting. The leading lights of the film industry appealed to Ashwath to reconsider his decision, but to no avail. After six years, Parvathamma Rajakumar offered him a role in Dr Rajkumar starrer ‘Shabdavedi’. Thus did Ashwath return to films.
Ashwath was a fine actor known for gentlemanly behaviour. His popularity both as an actor as well as an individual was not less than any of the heroes of contemporary Kannada cinema. He was a role model worthy of emulation for those willing to enter the field of art and cinema.
B S Yeddyurappa, Chief Minister
He never craved for the luxuries of the film land and lived a disciplined life. The younger generation has quite a bit to learn from the actor.
Dwarakish, actor, producer and director
In Udbhava, Ashwath had the role of a priest. He asked the director what deity would he be worshipping. When rhe director ignored his question, he asked me the same question. After
my reply, he learnt few shlokas venerating that particular deity and chanted it during the shoot. Such was his dedication and preparation for his role.
Nagathihalli Chandrashekhar, Director
Ashwath was not just a ‘good samaritan’ in the movies he acted, he was a good man in real life too. His ways were simple and are a model to all. His death is a huge loss to the world of cinema.
Siddaramaiah, Opposition leader
Kannada film industry is losing seniors and is turning out to be like a house of orphans. The year has begun with loss of Ashwath, who was like a huge tree which provided shelter to many others. It is enormous loss to the industry.
Srinath, actor and MLC
Ashwath lived a difficult life in his last days. The industry and the Government have completely neglected our senior artistes. The government should do something to ensure that senior actors and legends do not live a life of penury.
Shivaram, veteran actor
He was a man with lots of self respect and an actor of rare genre. He attached less priority to money. He never accepted more remuneration than the industry standards even while essaying extraordinary roles.
Actors Raghavendra Rajkumar and Puneeth Rajkumar