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This is my diary....what I make sense of, around me. You'll find short prose on contemporary topics that interest me. What can you expect - Best adjectives? …. hmm occasionally, tossed around flowery verbs ?…. Nope, haiku-like super-brevity? … I try to. Thanks for dropping by & hope to see you again

March 21, 2009

Sandalwood @75

I picked the last issue of Sudha for its cover story on Sandalwood (i mean the Kannada film industry) turning 75. It made interesting read, for someone who grew up on copious amounts of its influence in the far away towns of North Karnataka no amounts of words or reams of thoughts can explain its phenomenon. So I’ll restrict myself to a some random nostalgic soliloquies. This is one wood that is supposed to bear a symbolic semblance to its more famous product from this part of the country. The actual sandalwood, it’s said matures well with age adding to its lustre & smell. It becomes precious. But the same cannot be said of this Sandalwood which has been ageing in the reverse order,it has been mired in problems, some of its own creation & some to external forces.
A lot of my friends from outside the state and settled in Bangalore cannot comprehend the phenomenon of its mascot Dr.Rajkumar. His pictures dot many a public places but many have not heard or seen him. They will not because he was a shy & reticent person who avoided public glare unlike most people today. His films belonged to the 1950s -80s period (he was on the wane in the 1990s) & he reigned over a different cult of commercial cinema that has very little semblance to current genre of films. He carried the reputation of the Industry in its fledgling years & it is said that the last point of his film distributed in the region marked the territory of the film Industry. His golden voice & his song numbers added to his vast repertoire of talent and immense popularity cutting across all section of the audience. He came from a strong theatre background & his films in many ways espoused his personality which was steeped in simplicity & good values. Yet it’s sad to see many groups use & abuse his name for parochial gains.

Sandalwood also churned out an amazing array of cinematic talent in the Acting, Filmmaking, Music fields that finds little peer today. Maybe it’s got to do with the lack of Institutional support & framework and partly to the dying Theatre culture that once flourished under stalwarts like Gubbi Veeranna that fed it with a constant stream of talent. Puttanna Kanagal in my opinion was the equivalent of Satyagit Ray to the Industry in terms of sheer quality & the ‘hat-ke’ themes of his films. The duo of Ragan-Nagendra in the 1960 -80 period brought in melody of pure brilliance on par if not better than the best in the country of its times.
There were several Actors & Actresses who also held immense sway over the imagination of masses. But 2 of them hold almost mystical sway, maybe because of their untimely & tragic deaths. Its Shankar Nag & Kalpana. Shankar Nag was brilliant in portraying the common man, his one film ‘Auto Shankar’ made in the mid 80s was so popular that most auto-wallahs in Bangalore still carry his photographs. He is well known outside the state as director of the immensely popular TV serial ‘Malgudi Days’, he brilliantly & almost with perfectionist zeal recreated the fictional Karnataka town which was the base of RK Narayan’s stories. Kalpana on the other hand ruled the industry in the 1960 -70s but was far ahead of her times. Others who left their mark were Ambarish (anti hero), Vishnuvardhan (the challenger), Anant Nag, Manjula, Jayanthi, among lots others. One cannot also forget greats like Rajnikanth, Illayaraja, Yesudas, SP Balasubramaniam & Kamal Hassan who have been associated with Sandalwood for decades.
One redeeming feature of the Industry has been to hold its own among other more influential Tamil & Telugu film industries by churning its creative outputs on the vast body of original literary works in Kannada. Some of its most memorable & National/Int’l award winning films have come from the works of local literary greats like TK Ramarao, Girish Karnad, UR Ananthamurthy, BV Karanth, Gorur Ramaswamy Iyengar among others . And the remake culture is threatening that. It is sincerely hoped that the current torch bearers in the Industry like Girish Kasarvalli , Manoharmurthy & Jayant kaikini among others will place it back on its pedestal.
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