The ‘Kala Tapasvi’ is known for immortalising art through cinema, while addressing the real world problems in the most humane, artistic and profound way possible
ఏ కళలోనైనా రససిద్ధి సాధించాలంటే
కేవలం కళ్ళకి చూపించి చెవులకి వినిపించి కాదు
మనసుని కదిలించి కరిగించినప్పుడే
ఆ కళ సజీవ కళ అవుతుంది
“Any art becomes immortal, not just when it’s shown to the eyes or heard by the ears, but when its greatest potential is exploited to move and melt hearts.” But what about the artist who creates such art? like filmmaker K Viswanath. Probably, he too will remain alive forever just like his timeless classics.
In a career spanning more than seven decades, the ‘Kala Tapasvi’ has directed over 50 feature films and acted in several others. He’s known for immortalising art through cinema, while addressing the real world problems in the most humane, artistic and profound way possible.
Did you ever notice a scene or sequence in some of his movies which encapsulate the essence of the entire film? Here are some of those defining scenes or sequences from K Viswanath’s best works:
1. Sankarabharanam (1980)
With the surging popularity of disco, pop, rock and reggae music all over the world in the 60s and 70s, classical music has begun to lose its momentum, whether in the East or West. Every young chap back then was a fan of The Beatles, Rolling Stones or AC/DC, but hardly knew the name of a classical singer. Probably, K Viswanath’s world-renowned musical drama and the 1980 classic was the voice of every classical musician and the feeling of every classical music fan.
In this scene, where Shankara Sastri (JV Somayajulu) shows, not tells, the greatness of music and puts a couple of western music enthusiasts in their place when they look down on him for being a classical musician, while holding as much regard for Western music as he does for Classical music. Sastri’s words – “Music is divine, whether it is Western or Indian. Music is not divided by language. It is enjoyed by everyone, irrespective of where they hail from. Who are we to decide one type of music is better than another? To insult any form of art would be stupidity” – can never be forgotten.
2. Saptapadi (1981)
Saptapadi is about the transformational journey of a conservative temple priest Yajulu (JV Somayajulu) so devoted to traditions and customs, that the lives and desires of his grandchildren, make him question the caste system and rise above it. The movie culminates with Yajulu annulling his granddaughter Hema (Sabitha Bhamidipati)’s marriage and giving her away to the man she loves, a flautist who hails from a lower caste.
This scene, driven by Yajulu’s rational dialogue with the prejudiced villagers, shows what all ran through the priest’s mind before becoming a changed man. Intercuts of a little Brahmin kid standing, witnessing, clapping, crying and folding his hands in reverence; Yajulu putting one hand on his grandson’s shoulder and the other holding his hands, expressing both pride and gratitude at the same time; Hema and her former husband wishing each other well before saying goodbye; Hema taking the 7 steps (indicating Saptapadi) along with her man to climb up the boat; and the wide shot of the village crowd turning their backs… All of it mirrors Viswanath’s artistic prowess, and sums up the film.
3. Subhalekha (1982)
Inspired by the Telugu play ‘Kanyasulkam’, written by Gurazada Venkata Apparao, Subhalekha is a comedy that deals with the social malady of the dowry system, and contends for equality and independence of women.
This scene pretty much captures the essence of the movie, where an independent and freethinking woman Sujatha (Sumalatha) stands up for herself when an arrogant wealthy man named Adiseshayya (Kaikala Satyanarayana) sees it as his right to demand dowry for his son. In the 1980s, where dowry was a common practice, Viswanath’s movie stirred a conversation around the social problem.
4. Sagara Sangamam (1983)
Sagara Sangamam means ‘confluence with the ocean’. This finest work of Viswanath is the story of how an unsuccessful-but-passionate dancer devotes his entire life to the artform despite remaining a failure in the eyes of the society, yet he keeps his art alive by passing it down to the next generation.
From Balakrishna’s (Kamal Haasan) incessant pursuits to train ignorant Sailaja (SP Sailaja), despite deteriorating health, to leaving his last breath in peace on seeing himself in Sailaja’s stage performance and keeping his words… The intricacies involved & the emotional impact of the last 10-12 minutes of the film leaves any viewer speechless. Balu wearing all white and Sailaja in red and flesh pink attire during the rehearsals of “Vedam Anuvanuvuna” song, give the impression that they’re a representation of soul and body, which seems straight out of Kala Tapasvi’s imagination.
5. Swathi Muthyam (1986)
It is K Viswanath’s rarest and purest work of art, just what the title indicates – a rarest, pure pearl. It’s the story of an autistic man Shivayya (Kamal Haasan) who marries a widowed mother Lalitha (Radhika), with the saintly intention of protecting her and her son, and keeping them away from difficulties. The heart-warming tale of two humane beings who are ostracised by the society they live in, is too pure for this world.
The movie maestro shows what the film is all about in the opening scene itself. Here, Shivayya picking up the bigger and smaller balls of cow dung – Gobbemmalu (which are worshipped in Telugu traditions, and here, indicative of Lalitha and her son) – and keeping them in his front yard, while shooing away the barking dog, just sums up the whole movie.
6. Swayam Krushi (1987)
One of the immortal celluloid works of K Viswanath, Swayam Krushi depicts the dignity of labour. It shows the humility of an illiterate cobbler Sambayya (Chiranjeevi) who in spite of rising up to become a successful businessman, believes in hard work and equality of opportunity. He relinquishes everything he achieved over the years, for his nephew/adoptive son, who doesn’t realise Sambayya’s worth until he loses him. The following scene perfectly outlines the film’s character.
7. Swarna Kamalam (1988)
Lotus flowers bloom in murky waters in the presence of sunlight, but the same sun will make them wither away once they are pulled out of the waters. In Swarna Kamalam, Meenakshi’s (Bhanupriya) character is analogous to the Lotus flower. Despite being the daughter of a virtuoso dancer, Meenakshi doesn’t acknowledge the privilege of being born into a family of artistes and raised as one, on contrary, she believes that the artform has given nothing but financial difficulties to her family, who devoted their entire lives in the service of Arts. So she tries to run away from dance and dreams to have a fulfilling materialistic life. But, things take a turn when a painter Chandram (Venkatesh) moves in as her neighbour and relentlessly pushes her to realise the true potential of the gift she holds, thus enabling her to transcend the material life and attain higher consciousness through dance. Hence the title, which means ‘The Golden Lotus’.
Here’s a scene which encapsulates the film (don’t miss Meenakshi’s dream)
8. Swathi Kiranam (1992)
Revolving around the concept of Arishadvargas – the six enemies of the mind – Swathi Kiranam enlightened the audience more than it entertained. The story of an illustrious classical music composer Anantha Rama Sharma (Mammootty) who gets consumed by his own insecurities after the popular rise of a musical child prodigy Gangadhar (Manjunath), unsettles everyone who watches it even today.
Even Gangadhar or Sharma won’t be able to create an appropriate composition to describe the emotional impact of this entire sequence leading up to the film’s culmination. The rise and end of a musical genius Gangadhar, Sharma’s suffocation in the flames of jealousy, Sarada’s suffering owing to the conundrum of perceptions about her god-like husband, and ultimately the climax, where Sharma restarts his journey as a student under Sarada… all leaves you speechless and teary-eyed.
In the words of filmmaker Gunasekhar about K Viswanath, “a picture has to speak and words have to be seen. His films have done only that.”
Updated date: Wednesday, 08 Feb 2023 - 9:49 AM