Puttanna Kanagal

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Puttanna Kanagal
File:Puttanna Kanagal.jpg
Shubraveshti Ramaswamiah Seetharama Sharma

(1933-12-01)1 December 1933
Died5 June 1985(1985-06-05) (aged 51)
Bangalore, India
Other namesPuttanna, Seetharama Sharma
OccupationFilm director, producer, screenwriter
Years active1957–1985
Aarathi (1976-1981)

Shubraveshti Ramaswamiah Seetharama Sharma (1 December 1933 – 5 June 1985), known popularly as S. R. Puttanna Kanagal, was an Indian filmmaker known for his work in Kannada cinema. He is often considered one of India's most influential filmmakers.[1][2]

Background and personal life[edit]

Puttanna Kanagal was born to Ramaswamaiah and Subbamma in Kanagal, a village in the erstwhile Kingdom of Mysore into a poor family.[3] As he hailed from a poor family, he had to endure hardships and struggled to get a decent job. He worked as a teacher, salesman and even as a cleaner. His job as a publicity boy brought him closer to theatre and subsequently to cinema.[2] His association with films began when he started working for B. R. Panthulu as an assistant director and also as his driver.[2] His first film as an assistant director was Rathnagiri Rahasya (1957).

Puttanna married Nagalakshmi at very young age and they had 5 children. However he fell in love with his protege and leading actress in 1970s Aarathi and they got married during 1976-77. They had a daughter Yashaswini, who was born in 1978. However due to creative differences Puttanna and Aarathi separated in 1981.

In 1981 Puttanna's magnum opus Ranganayaki did not do as well as expected at the box office, even though it gained critical acclaim and later went on to become a cult classic. In addition to this, separation from Aarathi had impacted his health. He had no work in hand for 14 months starting from late 1980 to mid of 1982. Srinath whom Puttanna directed in blockbuster films like Shubhamangala and Dharmasere came to his help, and they made Maanasa Sarovara which became an average hit and helped Puttanna bounce back. His later films like Amruta Ghalige and Runamukthalu did reasonably well. Kanagal died on 5 June 1985 in Bengaluru while shooting Masanada Hoovu.

Starting his career as a publicity boy, Kanagal was drawn into independent filmmaking after a stint in theatre and working with film director and producer B. R. Panthulu as his assistant.[4] Kanagal's assistants include Tamil directors S. P. Muthuraman, Bharathiraja,[5][6] and T. S. Nagabharana.[7]

Although a majority of Kanagal's films were on offbeat or taboo subjects, generally women-centric,[4] he endeared himself to both the critics and ordinary film goers alike making "bridge films" between art and commercial cinema. His film in Kannada, Gejje Pooje, based on a novel of the same name by M. K. Indira is considered a landmark film.[2] He would go on to direct other films such as Kappu Bilupu (1969), Sharapanjara (1971), Naagarahaavu (1972), Edakallu Guddada Mele (1973), Shubhamangala (1975) and Ranganayaki (1981), all of which are seen as milestones in Kannada cinema.[8] He also directed a handful of films in Malayalam, Tamil Telugu and Hindi languages.

As a director[edit]

Often credited as a movie-maker much ahead of his times, his first directorial venture was the 1964 Malayalam movie School Master, a remake of his mentor B. R. Panthulu's Kannada classic of the same name. He then directed another Malayalam movie Poochakkanni (Cat eyed/Hazel eyed lady) based on the Kannada novel Bekkina Kannu by Triveni. Puttanna's first Kannada film as a director was Bellimoda (Silver Cloud) in 1967. Starring Kalpana and Kalyan Kumar, this movie was a critical and commercial success. Legend has it that Puttanna scouted for a week to find the perfect location for the mellifluous song mooDala maneyaa. Belli Moda is credited as the first Kannada movie to be shot exclusively outdoors. He directed many masterpieces like Gejje Pooje, Sharapanjara, Naagarahaavu etc. '. His last film was Savira Mettilu, which never released during his lifetime.

He also provided a platform for many actors such as Kalpana, Aarathi, Leelavathi, Jayanthi, Padma Vasanthi, Srinath, Rajinikanth, Vishnuvardhan, Ambarish, Jai Jagadish, Chandra Shekhar, Gangadhar, Shivaram, Vajramuni, Sridhar, Ramakrishna and Aparna to showcase their talents.

In devotion to Puttanna, Dr.Vishnuvardhan said, "Puttanna Kanagal Sir was the God-sent teacher for me! And I have been made an actor. I am indebted to guru Puttanaji. He used to conceptualize scenes, narrate them to me, inspire me and extract the potential till then unknown to myself. Acting in a single movie under Puttanna's expertise is an experience of a lifetime."

Puttanna introduced most of the actors in the Kannada film industry. Tamil director Bharathiraja worked under him. Each of Kanagal's 24 Kannada movies had strong themes filled with unprecedented direction.

Tamil legendary film maker K. Balachander, winner of the 2010 Dadasaheb Phalke Award had great regard for Puttanna. In many of his interviews to the media, Balachandar has stated that he considered a much younger, Puttanna Kanagal, a director from Kannada(Karnataka) film industry to be his guru in film making. An excerpt from one such interview:[9]

Q) You have stated in many interviews that you consider Puttanna Kanagal (Kannada filmmaker), though younger than you, as your guru in filmmaking. What is it that you learnt from him?
A) Age has got nothing to do with learning. You can learn from anybody and everybody. I liked and admired Puttanna Kanagal, because, at the time when many of our filmmakers lacked the vision of filmmaking in terms of visuals he was the one who insisted on films being visual than oral. Apart from that his ability to churn out the human emotions from his actors was one of his kind.

In fact Balachander, for most of the remakes of his Tamil films in Kannada (Benkiyalli Aralida Hoo, Mauna Geethe) has gone on to cast many of the talents like Ashwath, Sridhar, Jai Jagadesh, Ramakrishna, Srinath, nurtured in Puttanna's camp. Also, both Puttanna's and Balachander's films dealt with the issues on women – more so in Puttanna's films.

The Visualiser[edit]

The Kannada film industry in the 1960s and the 1970s started moving from mythological and historical subjects to socially relevant themes. This metamorphosis was reflected in the rise of bandaaya sahitya or rebellious literature. The New Wave Cinema or Alternate Cinema movement spread across India, particularly in Karnataka, West Bengal and Kerala. Puttanna's movies, however, were seen as a bridge between commercial cinema and alternate cinema.[10] While his plots, based on popular Kannada novels,[11] revolved around strong characters and distinct themes, he added mandatory songs and emotions to distinguish from alternate cinemas. His mastery over symbolism is quite remarkable. He has effectively used effectively in almost all of his movies.

Puttanna was also considered as a pioneer in picturising songs. In general, his movies contained 4–5 songs. Even with respect to song picturisation, Puttanna had a strong sense of colour and imagery. He would go to great lengths to select the locations and costumes for a song. The songs generally reflected the inherent mood of the film. For instance, the song from the movie Manasasarovara, Neene saakida gini, a poignant song, was shot amidst the dust-filled mining areas, thereby reflecting the agony of a man who has lost his true love. Similarly the song sandesha megha sandesha from the movie Sharapanjara was shot in the Madikeri, with innumerable oranges strewn around.

He was well known for his effective use of freeze shots and negative images to heighten the introspective effect of key scenes. Although his films were accused of being too woman-centric, Puttanna personally felt that such notions were wrong.

He was the first director of the Kannada Film Directors Association after its inception in 1984.[12] Poonam Theatre in Jayanagar, Bangalore was renamed in his honor after his last film debuted there. In 2004, the theatre closed until reopening after a 2011 campaign supported by Baraguru Ramachandrappa, V. Manohar and the Democratic Youth Federation of India[13] and was scheduled for demolition in July 2012[14] but later saved and remodeled.[15] In June 2015, the 30th anniversary of his death was honored with an event organized by the Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy and guests and speakers included Ambareesh, Leelavathi, S. Shivaram, Jai Jagadish, Ashok, K. S. L. Swamy and Rajendra Singh Babu.[8]

Awards and honours[edit]

Kanagal received three National Film Awards, three Filmfare Awards South and multiple Karnataka State Film Awards. Karnataka state honours film directors and various personalities with Puttanna Kanagal Award in his memory every year during the Karnataka State Awards function.[16][17]

List of awards and honours[edit]

Filmfare Awards South[edit]

List of movies, showing the year (award ceremony), film(s), award(s)
Year Movie Award Refs.
21st Filmfare Awards South Edakallu Guddada Mele Filmfare Award for Best Director – Kannada
27th Filmfare Awards South Dharmasere Filmfare Award for Best Director – Kannada
29th Filmfare Awards South Ranganayaki Filmfare Award for Best Director – Kannada

National Film Awards[edit]

List of movies, showing the year (award ceremony), film(s), award(s)
Year Movie Award Refs.
Gejje Pooje Best Screenplay [18]
Gejje Pooje Best Feature Film in Kannada [18]
Sharapanjara Best Feature Film in Kannada [19]

Karnataka State Film Awards[edit]

List of movies, showing the year (award ceremony), film(s), award(s)
Year Movie Award Refs.
1967-68 Belli Moda Best Film (Second)
1967-68 Belli Moda Best Screenplay
1969-70 Gejje Pooje Best Film (First)
1969-70 Gejje Pooje Best Screenplay
1970-71 Sharapanjara Best Film (First)
1970-71 Sharapanjara Best Screenplay
1972-73 Naagarahaavu Best Film (Second)
1972-73 Naagarahaavu Best Screenplay
1974-75 Upasane Best Film (First)
1974-75 Upasane Best Screenplay
1975-76 Katha Sangama Best Film (Fourth)
1980-81 Ranganayaki Best Film (First)
1983-84 Amrutha Ghalige Best Screenplay


Year Film Cast Notes
1964 School Master Prem Nazir, K. Balaji Malayalam
Remake of School Master (Kannada)
1964 Kalanjukittiya Thankam Sathyan, Ambika Malayalam
Remake of Gaali Gopura (Kannada)
1965 Chettathi Prem Nazir, Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair, Sathyan, Ambika, Adoor Bhasi, Sukumari Malayalam
Core plot partially inspired by the Kannada novel Hannele Chiguridaga by Triveni
1965 Pakkalo Ballem Kantha Rao, Rajasri Telugu
1966 Mayor Nair Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair, Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair, Meena, Malayalam
Adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel The Mayor of Casterbridge
1967 Belli Moda Kalyan Kumar, Kalpana, Pandari Bai Debut Kannada film
Karnataka State Film Award for Best Film
Based on the novel of same name by Triveni
1966 Poocha Kanni Prem Nazir, Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair, Adoor Bhasi Malayalam
Based on the Kannada novel Bekkina Kannu by Triveni
1967 Swapnabhoomi Prem Nazir, Sathyan Malayalam
1968 Teacheramma Jaishankar, Vanisri, R. Muthuraman Tamil
Remade in Malayalam as Premashilpi
1968 Palamanasulu Harinath, Jamuna, Pandari Bai Telugu
1969 Mallammana Pavada Rajkumar, B. Saroja Devi, Vajramuni, Dwarakish Kannada
Based on the novel Mallammana Pavaada by B. Puttaswamayya
1969 Kappu Bilupu R. N. Sudarshan, Kalpana, Balakrishna Kannada
Based on a novel of the same name by Aryambha Pattabhi
Remade in Tamil as Irulum Oliyum and in Telugu as Iddaru Ammayilu
1969 Gejje Pooje Kalpana, Gangadhar, Leelavathi, Aarathi, K. S. Ashwath Kannada
National Film Award for Best Screenplay
National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Kannada
Karnataka State Film Award for Best Film
Based on the novel Gejje Pooje by M. K. Indira
Remade in Tamil as Thaaliya Salangaiya , in Telugu as Kalyana Mandapam and in Hindi as Ahista Ahista which further inspired the 2007 Hindi movie Laaga Chunari Mein Daag
1970 Karulina Kare Rajkumar, Kalpana Kannada
1971 Sudarum Sooravaliyum Gemini Ganesan, Nirmala, R. Muthuraman Tamil
1971 Sharapanjara Kalpana, Gangadhar Kannada
National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Kannada
Karnataka State Film Award for Best Film
Based on the novel of same name by Triveni
Remade in Telugu as Krishnaveni (1974)
1971 Sakshatkara Rajkumar, Jamuna, Prithviraj Kapoor Kannada
1971 Irulum Oliyum A. V. M. Rajan, Vanisri, Nagesh Tamil
Remake of Kappu Bilupu (1969)
1972 Iddaru Ammayilu Shoban Babu, Vanisri, Gummadi Venkateswara Rao Telugu
Remake of Kappu Bilupu (1969)
1972 Naagarahaavu Vishnuvardhan, Aarathi, Ambarish Kannada
Karnataka State Film Award for Best Film
Based on T. R. Subba Rao's three novels Nagarahavu, Ondu Gandu Eradu Hennu and Sarpa Mathsara
Remade in Hindi as Zehreela Insaan , in Tamil as Raja Nagam and in Telugu as Kode Nagu
1973 Edakallu Guddada Mele Jayanthi, Ranga, Chandrashekar Kannada
Filmfare Award for Best Kannada Director
Based on the novel of same name by Bharathisutha which was an adaptation of the English novel Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence
1974 Upasane Srinath, Aarathi, Seetharam Kannada
Based on the novel of the same name by Devaki Murthy
1974 Zehreela Insaan Rishi Kapoor, Moushumi Chatterjee, Neetu Singh Hindi
Remake of Naagarahaavu
1975 Katha Sangama Rajinikanth, Aarathi, B. Saroja Devi Kannada
Karnataka State Film Award for Best Film
Based on three short stories - Hangu by Giraddi Govindaraj, Athithi by Veena and Munithaayi by Eshwara Chandra
Tamil movie Kai Kodukkum Kai was a partially based on this movie as an extended version of the Munithaayi segment
1975 Shubhamangala Srinath, Aarathi Kannada
Based on novel of same nam by Vani
1975 Bili Hendthi Anil Kumar, Aarathi, Margaret Thomson, Ambarish Kannada
1976 Phalitamsha Jaijagadish, Aarathi Kannada
Based on the story Golagummata by Srinivasa Kulakarni
1976 College Ranga Kalyan Kumar, Leelavathi Kannada
Based on novel of same name by B. G. L. Swamy
1978 Paduvaaralli Pandavaru Ramakrishna, Ambarish, Jai Jagadish, Jayashree Kannada
Remade in Hindi as Hum Paanch and in Telugu as Mana Voori Pandavulu
1979 Dharmasere Srinath, Aarathi Kannada
Filmfare Award for Best Kannada Director
Based on a novel of same name by Jada Bharata
1980 Hum Paanch Sanjeev Kumar, Raj Babbar, Shabana Azmi, Deepti Naval Hindi (as Writer)
Remake of Paduvaaralli Pandavaru
1981 Ranganayaki Ambarish, Aarathi, Ashok Kannada
Filmfare Award for Best Kannada Director
Based on the novel of same name by Ashwattha
1982 Maanasa Sarovara Srinath, Padma Vasanthi, Ramakrishna, G.Pandithachar Kannada
Core plot of the movie was reported to be influenced by the 1913 play Pygmalion [20]
1983 Dharani Mandala Madhyadolage Chandrashekar, Srinath, Padma Vasanthi, Vijayalakshmi Singh Kannada
1984 Amrutha Ghalige Ramakrishna, Padma Vasanthi Kannada
Based on the novel Avadhana by Dodderi Venkatagiri Rao
1984 Runamukthalu Bharathi, Ramakrishna, Padma Vasanthi Kannada
Based on the novel Runa by Anupama Niranjana
1985 Masanada Hoovu Ambarish, Jayanthi, Hema Choudhary, Aparna Kanagal
Died while directing halfway. Remaining of the film was directed by K. S. L. Swamy
Based on the novel of same name by T. R. Subba Rao
2006 Savira Mettilu Jayanthi, Kalyan Kumar, K. S. Ashwath, Ambarish, Hema Choudhary, Ramakrishna, Vajramuni Kannada
Movie which was partially shot and shelved was completed and released


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  3. Mulukanadu personalities
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  9. Siddareddy, Venkat (2007). "interview".
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  12. "Now, Kannada directors get into the boxing ring". bangaloremirror.com. 27 June 2015. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
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  14. "Demolition of iconic landmark Puttanna Theatre begins". newindianexpress.com. 23 July 2012. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  15. "Puttanna Theatre to be reopened". jayanagar.com. Archived from the original on 12 July 2015. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  16. The Mysore Economic Review, Volume 73. 1988. p. 56. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  17. Janata, Volume 41. 1986. p. 80. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  18. 18.0 18.1 "17th National Film Awards" (PDF). Directorate of Film Festivals. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  19. "20th National Film Awards". International Film Festival of India. Archived from the original on 5 November 2013. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  20. https://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/entertainment/reviews/saheba-movie-review-bharath-has-crafted-a-smooth-flowing-story-that-has-a-captivating-effect/articleshow/60222459.cms

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