The doyen of Kannada cinema SR Puttanna Kanagal died on 5th June, 1985 after doing fantastic work as director in his 52 years of age. He started as director at the age of 31 but before that he was an assistant in the camp of BR Panthulu, legendary director of South India.
SR Puttanna Kanagal is every haunting for his films in just 20 years as director. Although he directed three Malayalam and one Telugu, it was ‘Belli Moda’ in 1966 that got him a terrific status in Kannada filmdom.
Before the veteran cameraman BS Basavaraj who worked with him in three films – Manasa Sarovara, Dharani Mandala Madhyadolage and Amrutha Ghalige let us take a look at the films of SR Puttanna Kanagal in Kannada.
Starting from Belli Moda, films like Gejje Pooje, Karulina Kare, Sharapanjara, Saakshaatkaara, Nagarahavu, Edakallu Guddada Mele, Upasaane, Katha Sangama, Bili Hendthi, Phalitamsha, College Ranga, Ranganayaki, Manasa Sarovara, Dharani Mandala Madhyadolage, Amrutha Ghalige, Runamukthalu and Masanada Hoovu was his last directorial venture. But Savira Mettilu that Puttanna started 37 years ago was completed by KSL Swami and got released in 2006.
BS Basavaraj remembers the doyen director on the occasion of his death anniversary. Basavaraj met Puttanna in the last days at Bhaktharam Hospital where he was admitted for heart ailment.
Perhaps no other director in Kannada cinema in a short span of time gathered so much of momentum like Puttanna. The whistle, claps and throwing money on screen was for heroes but it was Puttanna Kanagal who got that status in the theatres.
It was from the great humanity BR Panthulu a stalwart Puttanna Kanagal turned director for a Malayalam film ‘School Master’ that started the legend of Malayalam cinema Prem Nazir. It was a Kannada remake in Malayalam. Panthulu, observing the work of Puttanna, offered him a direction in Malayalam. That has made Puttanna to direct three Malayalam and one Telugu before coming to Kannada cinema as director in 1966.
Puttanna Kanagal as director was super and solid. He had great strength in picking subjects and most of them are his novels. He had a niche for making a terrific screenplay keeping in mind the audience. Puttanna Kanagal was always calling the cameraman as the wife of the director. He had a great sense of camera shots, lighting and designing besides having a wide knowledge in the music department. In the camp of BR Panthulu it was Puttanna who was picking the right tunes that got him special status, remembers Basavaraj.
For BS Basavaraj, getting into the camp of Puttanna Kanagal was not that important. He was busy in Tamil films and other language films in Madras. Puttanna had seen the pattern of work of BS Basavaraj at ‘Andada Aramane’, the Kavvali song he captured for ‘Badada Hoovu’ impressed him. The Tamil film of BS Basavaraj as cameraman ‘Suvarillatha Chitrirangal’ was another fine work that impressed Puttanna Kanagal. Puttanna inquired about Basvaraj with veteran cameraman DV Rajaram and asked him to come over.
The reason why BS Basavaraj was abstaining was also because he heard that he beats shouts and yells at his technicians and artists. But on the advice of his roommate Rajamani and mentor DV Rajaram, Basavaraj came to Bengaluru to meet Puttannaji.
In the first meeting Puttanna said that he cannot give remuneration for what he takes for Tamil films. Let’s talk about remuneration later on obliged Basavaraj and thus his journey in ‘Manasa Sarovara’ commenced. For location Basavaraj went to Sandur and in the garden of Ghorpade palace shooting a song was interesting he says.
The toughest task was for shooting the song ‘Neene Saakida Gini Haddaagi Kukkitallo…..in this song with mud rock on two sides and in the long lane Pranaya Raja Srinath running, Puttanna Kanagal took the risk of driving the car. More risk was on the shoulders of cameraman BS Basavaraj. Basvaraj was tied to the bonnet of the car that Puttanna Kanagal was driving with camera in his hand. This shooting is from morning 7 am to 11.30 and then again from 3 to 5 pm. Puttanna Kanagal was not liking top light and camera on top of the artists, says Basavaraj.
With great home work and wide knowledge Puttanna Kanagal had the urge for learning. As a cameraman I fine tuned with him because I studied his psychology and standards. This is what Puttanna Kanagal expected and in hunting talent and taking full potentiality of artists and technicians he was a ‘Punter’.
The mesmerizing audience especially women fraternity, Puttanna Kanagal was at the peak. He was the only director who used to bring a song and then elevate his concept at the climax. That is why he is unforgettable and genius technicians applaud BS Basvaraj.
The apprehension I had in mind on Puttanna Kanagal never surfaced even on one occasion of shooting, says Basavaraj. He never screamed or shouted at anyone he adds.
Puttanna Kanagal is a lesson for all coming generations of directors and technicians. He was apt and precise in his work in this ‘Maaya Loka’. Another Puttanna Kanagal I had not seen in this tinsel town is the frank opinion of 78 years veteran BS Basvaraj, cameraman of nearly 100 films in Tamil, Hindi and Kannada. Living for 52 years, working for 20 years, entering direction at the age of 31 years the result he generated is impeccable!
The government of Karnataka instituting SR Puttanna Kanagal award annually holds mirror to the stalwarts strength and achievement.