Jul 12, 2009
T S Nagabharana and his wife with Smitha Sujay
It was to be a rare tete-a-tete, for we were to meet a rare genius of a Kannada film-maker, who has made winning international, national, state-level and other awards a regular habit.
But all our fears and inhibitions were soon brushed aside as we got to know the amiable and personality of T S Nagabharana. Hang-ups and complexes that go along one’s celebrity status were never in the picture, so to say.
He was in Dubai to receive the "Dhwani- Sriranga" international Kannada theatre award 2009. The award was instituted by Dhwani Pratishthana in memory of founder of Kannada modern theatre, the late Adya Rangacharya (Sriranga). Dhwani Pratishthana has been honouring eminent personalities in the field of Kannada drama and theatre with this award over the past several years.
Talakadu Srinivasaiah Nagabharana was born on January 23, 1953. He holds degrees in Science and Law. He is an ardent and avid reader of Indian English literature.
Nagabharana is a socially committed Indian film director. He is the recipient of international, national, state and other prestigious awards for 20 of his 30 Kannada Movies in the last 26 years and 3 children's films among which have gotten international recognition.
A stage director and an artiste since his college days, Nagabharana has directed and acted in many stage plays and TV series for children. He has also received a gold medal from the Indian government for his achievement in theatre. He is the founder-president of the children's theatre organization called “Benaka”.
Ethos and works – achievements galore
Nagabharana has created a niche for himself in the present Indian Cinema by winning 8 National and 14 State Awards. Seven of his films are selected for Panorama at International Film Festivals. He has received many prestigious awards and credentials apart from Gold Medals for his individual achievements for theatre and film activities, including Puttanna Kanagal and Rajyotsava Gold Medals.
He has the unique distinction of being the only director to have an entry in the Mainstream section (Janumada Jodi) and the Indian Panorama (Nagamandala) in the same year of the International Film Festival of India 1998.
Nagabharana has a special inclination towards children's films. A child today is a citizen tomorrow. Nagabharana believes in this statement and the Films and TV rendering backed by his intuitive instinct about the children's psychology, behaviour and attitude give him a special stature and keep him in a unique position to give the best to the children all over the world.
Villages that retain fossils of rich cultural heritage of India and her folklore are the hub of his unique movies wherein concern for children and women, love of soil and courage of conviction are underscored. His children film Naviddeve Echcharike (Beware we are here) won the best Children's film award from Government of Karnataka (1995-96) and it has participated in many International Children's Film Festival.
National Integration man hits hat-trick
Nagabharana has so far directed 32 films of which Grahana won the best Film on National Integration, Best Script, Best Film Gold Medal during 1978-79, Anveshane (1982-83) won the Third Best Film, Government of Karnataka, Banker Margayya (1983-84) won National Best Regional Film award, selected for Indian Panorama. Asphota (1987-88) won the State Government Best Film Gold Medal. Nagabharana has also won the prestigious Nargis Dutt National Integration Award of Government of India for his film Santa Sishunala Sharifa during 1989-90. This film also won the Second Best Film Award of State Government besides winning awards in three other categories.
The hat trick crown of Nargis Dutt national integration is for the first time in the Indian film history.
A man of principles – money is only secondary
With three decades of service to Kannada film as director, actor and thinker, Nagabharana was lying low for some time after making 'Kallarali Hoovagi', a historical film. He appeared in the role of a director in the film 'Mr Garagasa' directed by Dinesh Baboo.
Nagabharana says he has three queries for anyone approaching him to direct a movie -the objective of making a film, what goal he would achieve and whether he would have full belief in the former as a director. He has set this acid test because he feels that the producers come with an intention of only making money and in other cases to introduce their progeny in the leading cast. At times, producers put up conditions, which are not acceptable to Nagabharana.
In the cinema field, according to Nagabharana, money occupies the second place, with creativity holding top priority. This is what makes him to firmly believe that everybody can be a dreamer, but not a director.
Nagabharana’s films and serials have always represented the local culture and society and its values and traditions. The remake films and mindless serials which are being watched by the public are totally alien to our culture.
While entertainment and projecting ideals should be the objective of a film, glorifying sex and violence will erode the value system of a society. It is the joint responsibility of those within the industry and the audience to make and encourage quality films.
His TV serials such as Sankranti, Jeevan Mukti, Mussanje, Gelati, and Namma Nammalli, to name just a few, are noteworthy for their thought-provoking portrayal of reality, subtle message, and their quintessentially regional presentation. Maha Maayi, his mega serial looks into the beliefs and superstitions of people, prompting viewers to think whether such beliefs or otherwise stem from their own personal needs and experiences, "without, however, taking a stance".
With a degree in science and law, English and Kannada literature have not only been a favourite pastime, but are reflected in the subjects, strong scripts and language of his films. His village background has ensured that his works are steeped in a rich heritage and folklore, with great emphasis on music. His close interaction with theatre and literary stalwarts such as B V Karanth, Chandrashekhar Kambar, Girish Karnad, and Adya Rangacharya has helped hone his creativity.
Shruthalaya his brainchild, "is a rendezvous for theatre and film learning and research".
In a candid interview, Nagabharana spoke to Smita Sujay on various issues.
Why has the trend of Kannada movies changed in recent years?
Any cinema taking shape in any language changes according to time, social set-up or problems in society. If you analyze the regional cinema of the 1970’s, the Navya, i. e., the new wave cinema started and gave a new turn to the film makers and also to the viewers. The 1980’s witnessed a comparably new wave trend in the commercial set-up. They were not successful. By way of a gap between new wave and commercial cinema, the former film-makers thought to change the society and not to entertain, whereas commercial film makers thought cinema is for entertainment.
Any noticeable change over the years?
The gap still stays. In 1990’s I personally started making films which could blend art and commercial film. That is where what can be classed as ‘bridge’ cinema started and I was able to recall the masses, with contents, presentation and create a number of award-winning films, which also ran for 25 weeks in public circuit. In 2000, a new trend of producers and film-makers jumped into new cinema field, thinking of fast money and the criterion was turnover of money. I say “Every dreamer cannot be a film-maker”. Each person has a right to dream but he cannot narrate the dream.
What was the overall development?
Cinema hence became a No Man’s Land, because the seriousness of film making and content were pushed away and easy-to-approach and absence of subjects took precedence. That has spoilt the viewers and the makers together. The trend continued, specially through 2008 and 2009. Out of 124 films, about 90 films are of the same routine, contents of violence, theme of love, that’s where a downward trend stated. The ideas of setting trends has failed and out if 124 films, only 4 films were successful.
You have won a number of awards at the state, national and international level. As a successful but committed film-maker, what you have to say about the kind of Kannada movies being made these days.?
I do maximum of 1 or 2 films in a year. I have won 8 national awards, 16 state awards, several international awards for my films, I was the only one to get an award for best film on national integration. I have received award for the films like – Grahana, Santa Shishunala Sharif and Kallarali Hoovagi. And I am proud that I represented in our Indian National film festival, Indian Panorama and mainstream in the same festival too. Incidentally, there were two films which were recognized in mainstream and Indian Panorama at the same time).
You have been a big name in the industry for over three decades, besides being active in the theatre field during your college days. Yet, persons with good taste and intentions like you are not getting a proper back-up in recent years. How do you respond to this development?
My way of film-making means that each time I experiment with my contents and presentation, e.g., what was shown in “Janumada Jodi” will not be repeated in my future film. Similarly, Nagamandala cannot be produced again; they are unique in their own way. In that way, mine was not just an experiment, but entertainment too, besides being theme-based and thought-provoking cinema. While doing so, with an experience of a theatre-person, I get rejuvenated as the theatre has given me the strength to experiment. My cinema may have slowed down in market but has not stopped. Each year one of my films is competing for national award.
Is there any output of yours, wherein you have felt that you did not do well as you expected or wherein you have felt to have given your best, but the public response was not to the desired level?
No film-maker, whether new or old, should be overconfident. He should take into confidence the team which works together. The teamwork will finalize the output. That is what I would call experiment. In my experiment, I may have failed several times, but not my teamwork. With my teamwork, I can say, have done justice to the projects. For example, “Neela”, a film which had a fantastic casting and a good theme failed miserably whereas in “Nagamandala” and “Kallarali…..“ you can see perfection in the teamwork and also my presentation. So this is where I am successful but at the same time I reached my audience. Of these, “Kallarali” was a historical. Though the film was so perfect in every sense, it didn’t do well as expected. As I analyse myself, I can feel that somewhere, I was not able to justifiably come up to the expectation. I always see each film as an experiment and each time it may not be successful. I believe in experiment, but I do not believe in success each time.
Nowadays, directors / producers spend a lot of money on picturizing songs on foreign locations. What would like to say about this?
There is some wrong notion in circulation without analysis of facts and figures around it. Nowadays, at the time of Muhurtam, the location is decided. So the next producer goes to the same place, as kind of a competition. In my films, I have given exposure to many hidden or unseen locations which were not shown in Kannada cinema. This way, I want my films to be true Kannadiga in essence.
Having recently taken over the charge of the Karnataka Film Academy, what are the steps you plan to take to give the Sandalwood industry the right sense of direction and orientation? As a successful maker of Children’s movies in the past, do you have any special plans to encourage more movies for children?
With my post as Chairman of Karnataka Film Academy, for the first time government of Karnataka has formed a setup for children.
First thing is to give proper foundation to start with my concept of “education in cinema “ and Cinema in education”. According to this theme, there will be a lot of things happening in future. Workshops will be held in Schools and colleges in total education the viewer, preparing a good audience, educating a film maker, preparing a good team work and the like and this is my notion in my academy.
As far as children’s films are concerned, I myself believe in children cinema. Children only create our future, so my plan for children’s film is to elaborately work out with regular screening and organizing district festival, international children's film festival. So I am prioritizing the society movement, children’s film movement and more than that consciously take steps that good cinema be known everywhere, so the Kannada language and Kannada Cinema will be all over the world.
Now that you have been honoured with Dhawani Pratishthana award in Dubai, in recognition of your contribution to theatre and cinema in particular and society in general, how do you feel?
I am overwhelmed as I receive this award here. My Kannadiga friends and well-wishers in Dubai have shown their respect and response towards my work in Kannada films. This will really boost my morale at this juncture and also I feel blessed by this honour.