Dwarakish’s film career marked by spectacular highs and lows

He spent lavishly on his productions, many of which became blockbuster hits. He courted fame and controversy in equal measure.
Last Updated : 16 April 2024, 20:33 IST
Last Updated : 16 April 2024, 20:33 IST

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Bengaluru: Bangle Shama Rao Dwarakanath, popularly known by his screen name of Dwarakish, is regarded as the first showman of Kannada cinema.

Ambitious, genial and extravagant, he dominated mainstream cinema as an actor, director and producer for several decades. He spent lavishly on his productions, many of which became blockbuster hits. He courted fame and controversy in equal measure.

Dwarakish was running an automobile business in Mysore when he grabbed a bit role offered by his filmmaker uncle Hunsur Krishnamurthy. He got to debut in the historical film Veera Sankalpa (1964).

He later moved to comedy roles. His sharp business sense nudged him towards production, and in 1966 he co-produced Mamatheya Bandhana.

His independent production Mayor Muthanna (1969), with Rajkumar in the lead, was the biggest hit of the time. Dwarakish cast himself as the hero in his next film. Inspired by a Danish spy comedy, Strike First Freddy (released in the US as Operation: Lovebirds), he produced Kulla Agent 000 (1972), which became a hit. Encouraged by its success, he produced Cowboy Kulla (1973), which also did well at the box office.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Dwarakish met with stupendous success both as an actor and producer. 

His pairing with Vishnuvardhan in films such as Kalla Kulla, Makkala Bhagya, Sose Thanda Sowbhagya, Kittu Puttu, Galate Samsara, Singapuradalli Raja Kulla,  Sreemanthana Magalu, Mane Mane Kathe, Guru Shishyaru, and Indina Ramayana were commercially successful.

He was at the top of his game as producer of some of these Kannada blockbusters when he ventured into production in other languages. But as luck would have it, Adatha Varisu (Tamil, 1983) and Gangwa (Hindi, 1984), both big budget Rajnikanth starrers, and Africadalli Sheela (1986), a multilingual shot in Africa, turned out to be box-office disasters, and he ended up with huge losses.

Dwarakish cast his sons Giri and Abhishek in Hrudaya Kallaru hoping to help them build their careers in cinema, but the film failed. From 1966 to 2019, he was a producer associated with around 60 films. He was passionate about cinema, and never gave up on it even in his advanced years.

Although he placed himself firmly in the commercial space, Dwarakish made some films with off-beat themes. Ananda Bhairavi, starring Girish Karnad, was about classical dance. And he had many firsts to his credit. He launched the careers of directors such as Siddhalingaiah and H R Bhargava, both of whom helmed hugely successful projects.

Dwarakish was the first producer to shoot a Kannada film in a foreign locale. He introduced many heroines from other language films to the Kannada screen, revived the flagging careers of artists such as Shruthi and Sunil, and introduced actors such as Vinod Raj and Harshavardhana.

He created a sensation by getting Kishore Kumar to sing for him in Kulla Agent.  He was associated with the biggest actors of the time—Rajkumar, Vishnuvardhan, and Rajnikanth.

Many of Dwarakish’s films were remakes, but he will be remembered for such original efforts as Mayor Muthanna, Singapuradalli Raja Kulla, and Ananda Bhairavi. 

(The writer is a film historian)

Published 16 April 2024, 20:33 IST

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