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How Dorai-Bhagavan conquered the family drama genre

Bhagavan, who passed away recently, was a literature lover
Last Updated : 04 March 2023, 09:55 IST

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Dorai Raj and S K Bhagavan were masters of the family drama genre in Kannada cinema. Bhagavan, who passed away recently, was a literature lover. He was the perfect foil for Dorai’s technical wizardry.

The duo gave some of the biggest hits of Dr Rajkumar and were successful in adapting classic literature on the big screen. Bhagavan’s death marked the end of an era. Let’s discuss some his best works with his partner Dorai.

1. Kasturi Nivasa (1971)

Following three action films, Dorai-Bhagavan exhibited their range with this social drama. Loosely based on William Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens, writer G Balasubramaniam wrote this heart-wrenching story for Sivaji Ganesan. The thespian rejected the role as he was bored of playing a tragic hero. Impressed by the story, Dorai-Bhagavan wanted to make the film in their home banner. During that time, Rajkumar’s stardom was on the rise and people were reluctant to accept him in a role deprived of heroism and other conventional elements such as romance and humour. The failure of Nanna Thamma (1970) was a case in point. Despite this situation, Rajkumar accepted this film with an offbeat theme.

The film was about Ravi Varma (Rajkumar), a lonely widower and an extremely generous man, so much so that he succumbs to his generosity. Rajkumar delivered a restrained performance, and Jayanthi and Ashwath were brilliant in the dramatic portrayals of their respective characters. The music by G K Venkatesh and lyrics from Chi. Udayashankar — especially the song Aadisinodu beelisinodu — has remained evergreen. The film opened to a lukewarm reception from the audience and was declared a failure. But, it attained cult status through its re-releases, proving to be a landmark film in Rajkumar’s career.

2. Eradu Kanasu (1974)

The film is based on writer Vani’s story. Though the film featured two heroines (Kalpana and Manjula), Eradu Kanasu wasn’t a typical love triangle. It explored complex relationships. The protagonist Ramu, a college professor, is in an unhappy marriage with Gowri as he hasn’t moved on from his previous relationship with Lalitha. The film was refreshingly different for its times as it attempted to take an intense and deeper look at relationships. Solid cast, and Rajan-Nagendra’s music formed the film’s backbone. The film’s music was the turning point in Rajan-Nagendra’s career as it spurred their successful journey in films.

3. Bayalu Daari (1976)

This is the first film of the director duo without Rajkumar in the lead. The film also proved Anant Nag’s ability to be a bankable star in mainstream films. The actor, till then, was seen in offbeat movies. Based on Bharathisutha’s novel, Bayalu Daari is about the plight of a woman (essayed by Kalpana) who gets pregnant before marriage. Her lover (Anant Nag), a pilot in the army, is declared dead. Bayalu Daari, which had shades of the Hindi super hit Aradhana, was a success. The Dorai-Bhagavan combination went on to give more hits with Anant Nag (Chandananda Bombe, and Benkiya Bale).

4. Vasantha Geetha (1980)

The debacle of Nanobba Kalla (1979) had dented the confidence of the duo. But it bounced back with this relationship drama. The premise — inspired by Kramer vs Kramer (1979), an American legal drama directed by Robert Benton and based on Avery Corman’s novel by the same name — is about how lack of trust disrupts a marriage and how the couple’s child suffers due to his parent’s troubled relationship. The film was a roaring hit and a young Puneeth Rajkumar’s performance won the hearts of Kannadigas.

5. Hosa Belaku (1982)

A simple story of a singer’s romantic life struck a chord with people. Hosa Belaku is one of the biggest hits from the on-screen couple of Rajkumar-Saritha. The film was a perfect blend of comedy and emotion. The melodious songs from M Ranga Rao further propelled the film.

6. Chandanada Gombe (1979)

This compelling film is based on T R Subba Rao’s novel of the same name. It shows the challenging life of a widow (Lakshmi) and her son in a traditional society marred by village politics.

7.Gaali Mathu (1981)

Based on another T R Subba Rao’s novel, the film was a surprise hit as it arrived with low expectations from people. With Anant Nag not available, Dorai-Bhagavan cast Jai Jagadish as the lead. Gaali Mathu had a unique premise. The fate of the heroine is decided by gossip. Dorai-Bhagavan’s deft direction and Lakshmi’s moving performance are the film’s plus points.

(The writer is a senior film historian).

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Published 03 March 2023, 18:28 IST

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