Who is great, Art or the Artist? — K Viswanath conveyed his perception through two of his iconic characters, Sankara Sastry and Anantha Rama Sharma ‘Kalatapasvi’ K Viswanath is known for his timeless classics like Sankarabharanam, Swathi Muthyam, Sagara Sangamam, Swati Kiranam, Saptapadi and Jeevana Jyothi. Among these, there are two films – Sankarabharanam (arguably, his greatest work ever) and Swati Kiranam – which feature the protagonist in the role of a ‘classical music’ maestro, yet are completely different as chalk and cheese. Sankara Sastry in ‘Sankharabharanam’Sankara Sastry (JV Somayajulu) from Sankarabharanam believes that music is divine, whether eastern or western. It is beyond all earthly segregations and is an infinite flow of elixir from which anyone can quench their thirst. On one occasion, when a musical society from Karnataka expresses its intention of honouring him with a Gandapenderam (a golden anklet) and Gajarohanam (ride on an elephant as a mark of prestige), Sankara Sastry, while acquiescing to their request, reminds them that he is an exponent of Nadopasana (practise of reaching or realising the divine through music) and nothing else can offer him the greatest satisfaction except that. His only desire is to pass on the legacy of music to the future generations, which he deems to be a sacred trust. This thought process of Sankara Sastry is best encapsulated by the following lines from the song “Shankaraa… Nada Sharirapara”:“Praanamu neevani, Gaanamey needani, Praanamey gaanamani… Mouna vichakshana, Dhyaana vilakshana, Raagamey yogamani… Naadopasana, chesina vaadanu, nee vaadanu nenu ayithe….. avatharinchara vini tarinchara” (You are the life force, it is your song, this life is for your song…Like an introspection of silence, a meditation without thoughts, tune is a way to unite with the DivineIf I'm the one who did service to music, If I'm yours….. reincarnate and come, listen and enjoy the song)Towards the climax, Sankara Sastry suffers a heart stroke while performing at a concert, but his disciple Sankaram (Tulasi) doesn't let the song to stop. He picks up and continues Sastry's song. Watching the young boy with pride, Sastry breaths his last after crowning him his successor, despite Sankaram being the son of Tulasi, whom the society castigates and terms as a ‘fallen woman’.For Sastry, music is above everyone and everything, and no one is different when it comes to serving the divine (art). However, this isn't the case with Ananta Rama Sharma of Swathi Kiranam.Anantha Rama Sharma in ‘Swathi Kiranam’Anantha Rama Sharma (Mammootty) in Swathi Kiranam is a widely respected Carnatic singer with a big ego. His vanity is shown in the Gajarohanam shot and his condescension is established in the scene where he rejects the prestigious ‘Padma Shri’ as he believes that the other awardees are not worthy of being mentioned alongside him.Sharma's insecurities begin to surface when a young musical prodigy Gangadhar, enters his life. Gradually, it comes to a point where Sharma feels overshadowed by Gangadhar and starts to look upon his own student as a threat to his significance. He stealthily copies Gangadhar’s tunes and snatches the credit which rightfully belongs to the prodigy. Gangadhar, on the other hand, reveres his Guru and doesn't contemplate about usurping the glory of his teacher, even in his wildest dreams. Shattered at being considered a rival by Anantha Rama Sharma and unwilling to cause him any further inconvenience, Gangadhar commits suicide. Shocked at the turn of events, Sharma loses his mental balance and leaves home. Eventually, it is music which puts him on the path to recovery as he becomes a student again under the tutelage of his wife – the climax scene is an allegory to Sharma beginning his life all over again under the guidance of the Goddess of Knowlegde & Spiritual Wisdom – Sharada. Life, in a tragic way, comes full circle for Anantha Rama Sharma.Here, we see two virtuosos but with different aspirations – one (Sastry) who believed in the universality of music and felt it was a way to unify with the infinite, whereas the other (Sharma) looked upon it purely as an accomplishment in terms of the material world, whose impermanence brought out the worst in the person. Sastry surrendered to the art, while Sharma tried to have a control over the art.In the spirit of Indian tradition, Gurus look for students who would excel them and perpetuate their legacy in greater splendour, but when knowledge is looked upon as a resource, it can lead to adverse results. Viswanath beautifully portrayed this philosophy through two of his classics, Sankarabharanam and Swati Kiranam.