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Puttanna Kanagal

Birthday
01 Dec 1933 (Age 84)

Puttanna Kanagal Biography

Puttanna Kanagal (Kannada: ಪುಟ್ಟಣ್ಣ ಕಣಗಾಲ್) was one of the most prominent Kannada film directors of the 1960s and the 70s. Although majority of his films were on offbeat or taboo subjects, he endeared both to the critics and ordinary film goers alike. He also directed a handful Malayalam and Tamil,Telugu and Hindi movies.

He Died on June 5, 1985 Bangalore, Karnataka, India

Early days
Shubraveshti Ramaswamiah Seetharama Sharma or S.R. Puttanna Kanagal, as he was popularly known, was born in Kanagal village in Mysore district. As he hailed from a poor family, he had to endure hardships and struggled to get a decent job. He worked as a cleaner, salesman and even a teacher to earn his bread. However, his job as a publicity boy brought him closer to theatre and subsequently to cinema. His association with films began when he started working for B.R. Pantulu as an assistant director and his driver.

As a director
Puttanna's maiden directorial venture was in Malayalam movie Poocha kanni (Cat eyed/Hazel eyed lady) based on the Kannada novel by Triveni Bekkina Kannu. In Kannada his first cinema was Savira Mettilu which was never released, during his life-time.

Puttanna's first break directorial venture was Bellimoda (Silver Clouds). 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 manyeaa".

Buoyed by the success, Puttanna directed masterpieces like Gejjepooje, Sharapanjara, Naagarahaavu etc.

He also provided a platform for many actors and actress like Kalpana, Aarathi, Jayanthi, Padma vasanthi, Srinath, Rajinikanth, Vishnuvardhan, Ambarish, Jai jagadish, Chandra Shekhar, Gangadhar, Shivaram, Vajra Muni, Sridhar, Ramkrishna, to showcase their talents.

In devotion to Puttanna, Vishnuvardhan said, "Puttanna Kanagal Sir was the God-sent teacher for me! I have been made as 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 just one movie under Puttanna’s expertise is an experience of a life time."

Puttanna introduced most of the actors in the Kannada cinema world.Well known Tamil direcor Bharathiraja was the assistant for him.

Personal life
Being one (and arguably greatest director) of the most passionate directors of the era his creativity never knew bounds. He never had problems in carving his niche linguistically nor working with any of the south Indian Cinema artist. However his personal life had a tale of apparent mysticism in it which had a shade of sorrow in it. Although married and had a full fledged family with his first wife Nagalakshmi Kanagal and their children, he and Kalpana shared a very passionate relationship which remained a misunderstanding to outer world causing disgrace at times.

In fact Kalpana and Puttanna were the two majestic artists who competed with each other and it was almost heights of insanity to compare their artistic abilities. Together they brought what can be called as bridging art of Cinema and Literature - considering the fact that notably highly complex subjects of Thriveni in their completeness, were not only brought into Cinema world but were well acknowledged (in fact have remained immensely popular) by the audience. Sadly after the majestic Sharapanjara the pair never worked together. Then he married Aarathi. Though he touched social subjects of social taboo and mysteries with rigorous attention and meticulous research, he never tried to put down his own limitations and tried living with his sorrows as he lived with his glories.

No other director in Kannada has given a success rate as Puttanna. Each of his 24 Kannada movies have strong themes, great plots and filled with unprecedented direction. He is a true legend of Kannada cinema.

Kanagal died on 5 June 1985 in Bangalore, while in preparation of the movie Masanada Hoovu.

The Visualiser
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 bandaya 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. While his stories, being based on popular Kannada novels, revolved around strong characters and distinct themes, he added mandatory songs and emotions to distinguish from alternate cinemas.

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 the song. The songs generally reflected the inherent mood of the film. For instance, the song from the movie Manasasarovara, Nee ne 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 Uttara druvadim 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.
 

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