Vishnuvardhan classic back in restored avatar

Nagarahaavu, directed by Puttanna Kanagal and first released 45 years ago, is back across Karnataka this week, restored and recoloured.

A restored version of Naagarahaavu, one of Kannada cinema’s biggest hits, is coming to screens across the state on July 20.

First released in 1972, the film became a runaway hit, catapulting its hero Vishnuvardhan to superstardom.

The restored and recoloured version of Naagarahaavu is the brainchild of Balaji, actor and son of N Veeraswamy, producer of the film. Veeraswamy produced several hits under his banner of Eshwari Productions.

Vishnuvardhan had acted in theatre and some art-house films, and was launched as a hero in this film. He went on to become a big star next only to Rajkumar.

Director Puttanna Kanagal, known to bridge art and commercial cinema, also introduced Ambareesh in this film. K S Ashwath became a household name after he played Chamayya Meshtru in this film. The film also brought popularity to actresses Arathi and Jayanthi.

“I mooted the idea of using new technology to my brother Ravichandran. He encouraged me to go ahead,” Balaji says.

Prints of the film were available, but Balaji went in search of the negative, and found it in Chennai’s Gemini Labs. About 60 technicians worked on the restoration for two years. “The sound is now DTS 7.1, in keeping with the latest technology. This Naagarahaavu will be a different viewing experience,” he says.

The teaser was released last month on YouTube, and more than 11 lakh people have already watched it. The original film was released in 35 mm, but the new version is in Cinemascope, Balaji says.

Naagarahaavu is based on three novels by T R Subbarao (Ta Ra Su: ‘Eradu Hennu Ondu Gandu’, ‘Naagarahaavu’ and ‘Sarpamatsara’.

Puttanna Kanagal wrote the screenplay, with dialogues by Chi Udayashankar. Vijayabhaskar scored the music. Songs from the film are hugely popular to this day. The cast included Leelavathi, Shubha, Shivaram, Prathima Devi, Dheerendra Gopal, Lokanath, M P Shankar, and M N Lakshmidevi.

Same excitement even after four decades 

Bharathi, leading lady of several hit films and wife of Vishnuvardhan, says, “Naagarahaavu is an immortal film. It has now been recreated. It is a festive occasion for Vishnuvardhan’s fans”
She has high hopes for the film: and hopes it celebrates a silver jubilee.

Jayanthi, who played a cameo as Onake Obavva in the film, says, “I am thrilled. Kalpana had rejected the role, saying the role was too small. But when Puttanna asked me, I took up the role as a challenge.”
Obavva is a soldier’s wife in the Madakari Nayaka era of Chitradurga, and beats to pulp Hyder Ali’s soldiers sneaking in through a hole in the fort.
“The song came out according to Puttanna’s imagination. When I saw this song again, I felt like it was a new song,” Jayanthi says.
The film went on to win several state and Filmfare awards and was remade in Hindi as Zehreela Insan, Tamil as Raja Nagam and Telugu as Kode Nagu. 

What’s it about?
Naagarahaavu means king cobra, and in a song, the character of Ramachari, played by Vishnuvardhan, describes himself as one. Ramachari is a rebellious boy who can’t get along with his parents and professors. The only elder he respects and heeds is Chamayya, his primary school teacher. Chamayya and his wife treat him with affection, and he finds comfort in their presence. In college, he falls in love with Alamelu, but Chamayya dissuades him from pursuing the relationship. Ramachari then falls in love with Margaret, but social restrictions hamper the relationship. The film explores many themes and ends in a flashpoint between Ramachari and the elder Chamayya on a spectacular windy peak in Chitradurga.

Nagarahaavu ran for 20 weeks in Karnataka

  • Its songs remain popular to this day.
  • Its negative was in Gemini Studios, Chennai.
  • Sixty technicians worked on its restoration.
  • The sound is now in 7.1.

New score
The rerecording for Naagarahaavu was done afresh, with a full team of live musicians, Balaji told Metrolife. Vijayabhaskar’s score was recreated and rendered by a team led by Gautam Srivatsa.

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Vishnuvardhan classic back in restored avatar

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