Puttanna Kanagal’s family celebrates revival of classic

On Metrolife’s suggestion, the iconic director’s extended family meets and recalls his life and times

Naagarahaavu, the film that shot Vishnuvardhan to superstardom, hit the cinemas in a new restored avatar two weeks ago, and is already being ranked among this year’s biggest grossing movies.

Puttanna Kanagal (1933-85), who directed it, is now revered as an icon: the Karnataka government has named its lifetime award for directors after him. He was just 52 when he died, but had created some of Kannada cinema’s most enduring classics, drawing his stories from the wealth of Kannada literature.

 He often took up subjects considered bold: extra-marital love (Edakallu Guddada Mele), psychological illness (Sharapanjara), the difficulties of children born to unconventional relationships (Gejje Pooje), and romantic love between teacher and protegee (Manasa Sarovara). He portrayed the glory and agony of the people behind company drama in Ranganayaki.

Puttanna won three national awards and several state awards, making compelling cinema from 1969 to 1984.

On Metrolife’s suggestion, his extended family met on Saturday to talk about him and remember their days with him. Many in his family are into the arts (son Ramu is a dance teacher, daughter Triveni is a dancer, and so on). Here is what they said:

Jyotsna Bhat (granddaughter)

“His movies were unique. He made emotional, women-oriented films that left a deep impression on viewers.”

Lakshmi Puttanna Kanagal (wife) 

“He wished well for everybody. We never discussed cinema at home. He kept his personal and professional lives separate. Back then, ‘Naagarahaavu’ was made with a new cast and a big budget. It was a big challenge. I am thrilled to see the movie release after so many years. It still looks fresh and has, in fact, brought all characters to life once again.”

Bhuvaneshwari (eldest daughter)

 “My father believed in three ‘Ds’- decency, dignity and discipline. He wanted his children to follow them. He encouraged his children to take up public service and discouraged them from entering the world of cinema.”

Gururaja rao (son-in-law and Triveni’s husband)

“I have watched all his films. Each one is different. There was no obscenity in his films. He was known as Chitra Brahma and all characters he created remain in people’s hearts. Each film conveyed a strong message. He tackled many problems in his films: children being forced to do their elders’ bidding, the pain of childless couples, the tribulations of inter-caste marriages...”

Sneha Jayakumar (grand daughter)

“This is the first time we have had a chance to watch a film on the big screen. We have lost count of how many times we have watched his movies on TV. The emotions are still fresh. Portraying women in a respectful way was his strength. His movies were never predictable. I follow a thought he highlighted in one of his movies where Aarti plays a tomboy. She
sings, ‘Ee shatamaanada maadari hennu’ (‘Í am a woman of this era’). I want to be a woman of this era.”

Triveni (Daughter)

“My father’s dream was to make good cinema and he worked towards winning an Oscar. He thought 20 years ahead of his time. He wanted to be innovative and bring Kannada film industry to the forefront. He never thought about what his children were studying because my mother was always there to take care of us and run the house. He was a loving father and a voracious reader. He would ask us to use our time to read books and tell us that there was a lot to learn. He was just 52 when he passed away and it was a shock for the family. My mother filled the vacuum. She has been both mother and father to us.”

Naagarahaavu, a 1972 blockbuster Kannada film, was directed by Puttanna Kanagal and based on Ta Ra Subba Rao’s trilogy, Nagarahavu, Ondu Gandu Eradu Hennu and Sarpa Mathsara . It featured Vishnuvardhan, K S Ashwath, Aarathi and Shubha in lead roles. The film also has Leelavathi, Ambareesh, Shivaram, Dheerendra Gopal, M P Shankar, Lokanath and Vajramuni essaying prominent roles. It catapulted Vishnuvardhan and Ambareesh to stardom, established Kanagal as the pre-eminent film-maker in Sandalwood.

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Puttanna Kanagal’s family celebrates revival of classic

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