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Shankar Nag: The Lamp That Flashed Like A Wave

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Click here to go to the main page of Kannada Lyrics.
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Shankar Nag – you name him and you will see how people around you would love to remember him, his artistry and his personality. About 15 years back, Shankar Nag disappeared like a wave in a road accident, but what is left behind is the rich heritage of abundant art that he churned out like magic all through his career in cinema and stage. From a Marathi stage artist to a filmmaker to his world-class serial – Malgudi Days, Shankar Nag has left some deep imprints of solid artwork, the world will remember always. The aroma of his talent is so green, every time I come to think of it, it leaves a new freshness in my mind, a new blossom, unprecedented by any of the stalwarts who strode the Kannada Film Industry.

It was about 10 years back; I was watching this internationally acclaimed movie Accident. When I watched that movie, I felt like muting and challenging everyone to guess the language in which the cinema was made; other than the Indian characters (which made it easy to guess that its an Indian movie), I could almost swear that the movie blended in an international class of it own. Shankar Nag had this wonderful talent of playing with the camera angles; in all of his movies, the frames become characters themselves, let alone the artists performing or the background score.

I remember the starting scene in Accident, its vividly engraved in my memory – a black screen starts to move up like a curtain raiser, and a walk through of the camera is initiated, cutting straight into the bright sunny street, as the black screen moves up and disappears (a scene actually where a car from inside a shed moves out, as the shutters of the shed move up). Such ideas were parallel to Satyagit Ray’s Pather Panchali where in a scene, a little girl opens the lid of a container (or pot) and the scene cuts to showing a black frame with a hole (in the centre of the frame) through which the girl can be seen peeping inside the pot (camera from inside the vessel/pot). This was one of Shankar Nag’s biggest asset – to use more of innovation than technology in adapting to interesting camera angles.

Dynamism, Zestfulness & Full-Of-Life – this was Shankar in a few words. These essentials of Shankar were translated into a TV Episode Malgudi Days, adapted from the works of the literary titan R. K. Narayan. If you ask me, I will say Malgudi Days is a mirror of Shankar’s personality – Full-of-life, beaming with energy and living at the Edge-Of-The-Moment. Such perfection in direction was seldom seen on a big screen those days let alone watching it on a Television.

Down to earth settings, village style tunes humming in the background and a host of blatantly etched typical characters of Indian life – would colourfully blend to make a short 15-20 minutes episode that would leave a trail in the memory for ever and ever. I remember those days, even ten minutes before the serial started, my family (and so would every family around my neighborhood) would be glued to their seats to enjoy the marvel. One thing that was remarkable always about these episodes was the climax – it would be as witty and lightning as the short story itself. At the cut of the climax, the reverberating-melodic tune of Malgudi Days (composed by Vaidyanathan) would penetrate and soothe our moods, melting all the heaviness of the story. Malgudi Days has been blazingly awarded as one of the finest serials ever that could be made in the history of World Television.

Sanketh was a trust founded by Shankar to promote stage. Stage was Shankar’s first love (and last love) though Shankar will be more remembered as a cinematic personality. The seed that was buried then by Shankar, is what is grown today to a tree laden with fruits at Ranga Shankara, a state-of-the-art theatre completed by his equally talented wife Arundati Nag. There could never have been a better compliment than this theatre to remember the great artist.

Shankar was not just a theatre and cinematic personality. He is known to have been a great painter, writer and a poet. When he passed away, I remember articles on Shankar which claimed that Shankar never ever wasted even a single minute of his life – it was so productively used towards the medium of art, it would end up in Shankar spending less than four hours of sleeping in a day. As a debutant-actor in Ondhanondhu kaaladhalli to making brilliant movies like Accident, Minchina Ota, Geetha to his TV Serial Malgudi Days, one thing that demands a standing ovation to this artist is his unbiased professionalism and sheer passion in dedicating his talent, fully justifying to each of these professions to the best.

I do not want to re-kindle the sad memories, but one thing that deserves mention is the frenzy of crowd that surfaced when Shankar died. Almost every film artist was in tears, and it only goes to show how truly a loss it was with the sudden demise of Shankar.

I can confidently vouch that if Shankar had been alive today, Kannada Film Industry would be seen in world map of cinema – big and bold, proudly standing like a peacock (as contrary to the pathetic state the industry is suffering today).

If Shankar is a “wave”, his talent is the “ocean”. A lamp that flashed like a wave, a lightening without a thunder, a silver-line without the dark cloud, a rose without a thorn is what Shankar was to industry, specially the Kannada film industry.

The lamp rose, the lightening flickered and disappeared, but the aroma stays evergreen; the bud of the lamp shall always stay warm and awake. I wish someone from the Kannada Film Industry be born to ignite this flame once again, and carry it forward like an eternal torch.

Sreesha Belakvaadi

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