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Puttanna Kanagal

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Puttanna Kanagal
Shubraveshti Ramaswamiah Seetharama Sharma[1]

(1933-12-01)1 December 1933
Died5 June 1985(1985-06-05) (aged 51)
Bangalore, India
Other namesPuttanna, Seetharama Sharma
Occupation(s)Film director, producer, screenwriter
Years active1957–1985
Aarathi (1976-1981)
RelativesKanagal Prabhakara Shastry (brother)

Shubraveshti Ramaswamiah Seetharama Sharma [2] (1 December 1933 – 5 June 1985), known popularly as S. R. Puttanna Kanagal, was an Indian filmmaker known for his work in Kannada cinema. He is often considered one of Indian cinema's most influential filmmakers.[3][1]

Background and personal life[edit]

Puttanna Kanagal was born to Ramaswamaiah and Subbamma in Kanagal, a village in the erstwhile Kingdom of Mysore into a poor family.[4] As he hailed from a poor brahmin family,[5] he had to endure hardships and struggled to get a decent job. He worked as a teacher, salesman and even as a cleaner. His job as a publicity boy brought him closer to theatre and subsequently to cinema.[1] His association with films began when he started working for B. R. Panthulu as an assistant director and also as his driver.[1] His first film as an assistant director was Rathnagiri Rahasya (1957).

Puttanna married Nagalakshmi at very young age and they had 5 children. However he fell in love with his protege and leading actress in 1970s Aarathi and they got married during 1976–77. They had a daughter Yashaswini, who was born in 1978. However, due to creative differences Puttanna and Aarathi separated in 1981.[6]

In 1981 Puttanna's magnum opus Ranganayaki did not do as well as expected at the box office, even though it gained critical acclaim and later went on to become a cult classic. In addition to this, separation from Aarathi had impacted his health. He had no work in hand for 14 months starting from late 1980 to mid of 1982. Srinath whom Puttanna directed in blockbuster films like Shubhamangala and Dharmasere came to his help, and they made Maanasa Sarovara which became an average hit and helped Puttanna bounce back. Kanagal died on 5 June 1985 in Bengaluru while shooting Masanada Hoovu.

Starting his career as a publicity boy, Kanagal was drawn into independent filmmaking after a stint in theatre and working with film director and producer B. R. Panthulu as his assistant.[7] Kanagal's assistants include Tamil directors S. P. Muthuraman, Bharathiraja,[8][9] and T. S. Nagabharana.[10]

Although a majority of Kanagal's films were on offbeat or taboo subjects, generally women-centric,[7] he endeared himself to both the critics and ordinary film goers alike making "bridge films" between art and commercial cinema. His film in Kannada, Gejje Pooje, based on a novel of the same name by M. K. Indira is considered a landmark film.[1] He would go on to direct other films such as Kappu Bilupu (1969), Sharapanjara (1971), Naagarahaavu (1972), Edakallu Guddada Mele (1973), Shubhamangala (1975) and Ranganayaki (1981), all of which are seen as milestones in Kannada cinema.[11] He also directed a handful of films in Malayalam, Tamil Telugu and Hindi languages.

As a director[edit]

Often credited as a movie-maker much ahead of his times, his first directorial venture was the 1964 Malayalam movie School Master, a remake of his mentor B. R. Panthulu's Kannada classic of the same name. He then directed another Malayalam movie Poochakkanni (Cat eyed/Hazel eyed lady) based on the Kannada novel Bekkina Kannu by Triveni. Puttanna's first Kannada film as a director was Bellimoda (Silver Cloud) in 1967. 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 Maneyaa". Belli Moda is credited as the first Kannada movie to be shot exclusively outdoors. He directed many masterpieces like Gejje Pooje, Sharapanjara, Naagarahaavu etc. '. His last film was Savira Mettilu, which never released during his lifetime.

He also provided a platform for many actors such as Kalpana, Aarathi, Leelavathi, Jayanthi, Padma Vasanthi, Srinath, Rajinikanth, Vishnuvardhan, Ambareesh, Jai Jagadish, Chandra Shekhar, Gangadhar, Shivaram, Vajramuni, Sridhar, Ramakrishna and Aparna to showcase their talents.

In devotion to Puttanna, Dr.Vishnuvardhan said, "Puttanna Kanagal Sir was the God-sent teacher for me! And I have been made 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 a single movie under Puttanna's expertise is an experience of a lifetime."

Puttanna introduced most of the actors in the Kannada film industry. Tamil director Bharathiraja worked under him. Each of Kanagal's 24 Kannada movies had strong themes filled with unprecedented direction.

Tamil legendary film maker K. Balachander, winner of the 2010 Dadasaheb Phalke Award had great regard for Puttanna. In many of his interviews to the media, Balachandar has stated that he considered a much younger, Puttanna Kanagal, a director from Kannada(Karnataka) film industry to be his guru in film making. An excerpt from one such interview:[12]

Q) You have stated in many interviews that you consider Puttanna Kanagal (Kannada filmmaker), though younger than you, as your guru in filmmaking. What is it that you learnt from him?
A) Age has got nothing to do with learning. You can learn from anybody and everybody. I liked and admired Puttanna Kanagal, because, at the time when many of our filmmakers lacked the vision of filmmaking in terms of visuals he was the one who insisted on films being visual than oral. Apart from that his ability to churn out the human emotions from his actors was one of his kind.

In fact Balachander, for most of the remakes of his Tamil films in Kannada (Benkiyalli Aralida Hoo, Mauna Geethe) has gone on to cast many of the talents like Ashwath, Sridhar, Jai Jagadesh, Ramakrishna, Srinath, nurtured in Puttanna's camp. Also, both Puttanna's and Balachander's films dealt with the issues on women – more so in Puttanna's films.

The Visualiser[edit]

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 bandaaya 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.[11] While his plots, based on popular Kannada novels,[13] revolved around strong characters and distinct themes, he added mandatory songs and emotions to distinguish from alternate cinemas. His mastery over symbolism is quite remarkable. He has effectively used effectively in almost all of his movies.

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 a song. The songs generally reflected the inherent mood of the film. For instance, the song from the movie Manasasarovara, Neene 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 sandesha megha sandesha 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.

He was the first director of the Kannada Film Directors Association after its inception in 1984.[14] Poonam Theatre in Jayanagar, Bangalore was renamed in his honor after his last film debuted there. In 2004, the theatre closed until reopening after a 2011 campaign supported by Baraguru Ramachandrappa, V. Manohar and the Democratic Youth Federation of India[15] and was scheduled for demolition in July 2012[16] but later saved and remodeled.[17] In June 2015, the 30th anniversary of his death was honored with an event organized by the Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy and guests and speakers included Ambareesh, Leelavathi, S. Shivaram, Jai Jagadish, Ashok, K. S. L. Swamy and Rajendra Singh Babu.[11]

Awards and honours[edit]

Kanagal received three National Film Awards, three Filmfare Awards South and multiple Karnataka State Film Awards. Karnataka state honours film directors and various personalities with Puttanna Kanagal Award in his memory every year during the Karnataka State Awards function.[18][19]

List of awards and honours[edit]

Filmfare Awards South[edit]

List of movies, showing the year (award ceremony), film(s), award(s)
Year Movie Award Refs.
21st Filmfare Awards South Edakallu Guddada Mele Filmfare Award for Best Director – Kannada
27th Filmfare Awards South Dharmasere Filmfare Award for Best Director – Kannada
29th Filmfare Awards South Ranganayaki Filmfare Award for Best Director – Kannada

National Film Awards[edit]

List of movies, showing the year (award ceremony), film(s), award(s)
Year Movie Award Refs.
Gejje Pooje Best Screenplay [20]
Gejje Pooje Best Feature Film in Kannada [20]
Sharapanjara Best Feature Film in Kannada [21]

Karnataka State Film Awards[edit]

List of movies, showing the year (award ceremony), film(s), award(s)
Year Movie Award Refs.
1967-68 Belli Moda Best Film (Second)
1967-68 Belli Moda Best Screenplay
1969-70 Gejje Pooje Best Film (First)
1969-70 Gejje Pooje Best Screenplay
1970-71 Sharapanjara Best Film (First)
1970-71 Sharapanjara Best Screenplay
1972-73 Naagarahaavu Best Film (Second)
1972-73 Naagarahaavu Best Screenplay
1974-75 Upasane Best Film (First)
1974-75 Upasane Best Screenplay
1975-76 Katha Sangama Best Film (Fourth)
1980-81 Ranganayaki Best Film (First)
1983-84 Amrutha Ghalige Best Screenplay


Year Film Language Notes
1964 School Master Malayalam Remake of School Master (Kannada)
1964 Kalanjukittiya Thankam Malayalam Remake of Gaali Gopura (Kannada)
1965 Chettathi Malayalam Plot inspired by Triveni's Kannada novel Hannele Chiguridaga
1965 Pakkalo Ballem Telugu
1966 Mayor Nair Malayalam Adaptation of Thomas Hardy novel The Mayor of Casterbridge
1967 Belli Moda Kannada Karnataka State Film Award for Best Film.
Based on novel by Triveni
Remade in Malayalam as Swapnabhoomi and Telugu as Palamanasulu
1966 Poocha Kanni Malayalam Based on the Kannada novel Bekkina Kannu by Triveni
1967 Swapnabhoomi Malayalam Remake of Belli Moda (Kannada)
1968 Palamanasulu Telugu Remake of Belli Moda (Kannada)
Credited as SSR Sharma [2]
1968 Teacheramma Tamil Remade in Malayalam as Premashilpi
1969 Mallammana Pavada Kannada Based on the novel Ardhaangi by B. Puttaswamayya
1969 Kappu Bilupu Kannada Based on novel by Aryambha Pattabhi. Remade in Tamil as Irulum Oliyum and Telugu as Iddaru Ammayilu
1969 Gejje Pooje Kannada Based on the novel by M. K. Indira. National Film Award for Best Screenplay. National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Kannada. Karnataka State Film Award for Best Film.
1970 Karulina Kare Kannada
1971 Sudarum Sooravaliyum Tamil
1971 Sharapanjara Kannada Based on novel by Triveni. National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Kannada. Karnataka State Film Award for Best Film
1971 Sakshatkara Kannada
1971 Irulum Oliyum Tamil Remake of Kappu Bilupu (1969)
1972 Iddaru Ammayilu Telugu Remake of Kappu Bilupu (1969)
1972 Naagarahaavu Kannada Based on 3 novels by T. R. Subba Rao: Nagarahavu, Ondu Gandu Eradu Hennu and Sarpa Mathsara. Karnataka State Film Award for Best Film. Remade in Hindi as Zehreela Insaan
1973 Edakallu Guddada Mele Kannada Filmfare Award for Best Kannada Director. Based on Bharathisutha's novel (in turn an adaptation of Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence)
1974 Upasane Kannada Based on the novel by Devaki Murthy
1974 Zehreela Insaan Hindi Remake of Naagarahaavu
1976 Katha Sangama Kannada Three segments based on three short stories: Hangu by Giraddi Govindaraj, Athithi by Veena and Munithaayi by Eshwara Chandra. Karnataka State Film Award for Best Film.
1975 Shubhamangala Kannada Based on novel by Vani
1975 Bili Hendthi Kannada Based on novel by M N Murthy.
1976 Phalitamsha Kannada Based on the story Golagummata by Srinivasa Kulkarni
1976 College Ranga Kannada Based on novel by B. G. L. Swamy. Tribute to B.R. Panthulu.
1978 Paduvaaralli Pandavaru Kannada Screenplay meant to be a modern version of the Mahabharata
1979 Dharmasere Kannada Based on novel by Jada Bharata. Filmfare Award for Best Kannada Director
1981 Ranganayaki Kannada Based on novel by Ashwattha. Filmfare Award for Best Kannada Director
1982 Maanasa Sarovara Kannada Core plot influenced by the George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play Pygmalion [22]
1983 Dharani Mandala Madhyadolage Kannada
1984 Amrutha Ghalige Kannada Based on the novel Avadaana by Dodderi Venkatagiri Rao
1984 Runamukthalu Kannada Based on the novel Runa by Anupama Niranjana
1985 Masanada Hoovu Kannada In progress at the time of death. Film direction completed by K. S. L. Swamy. Based on the novel by T. R. Subba Rao
2006 Savira Mettilu Kannada Shelved in the 1970s. Completed and released in 2000s.


  1. ^ a b c d e Khajane, Muralidhara (3 June 2005). "Puttanna's big feats". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 1 October 2007. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  2. ^ a b https://m.youtube.com/watch?si=YgT65UbpGJTApaJJ&v=RwsXWcpPCn4&feature=youtu.be
  3. ^ "Seminar on Puttanna Kanagal on July 6". The Hindu. 2 July 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  4. ^ "Mulukanadu personalities". Archived from the original on 22 February 2019. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  5. ^ "Sandalwood Director Puttanna Kanagal Biography, News, Photos, Videos". nettv4u. Retrieved 9 January 2022.
  6. ^ PUTTANNA KANAGAL, retrieved 20 January 2023
  7. ^ a b Kaskebar, Asha (2006). Pop Culture India!: Media, Arts, and Lifestyle. ABC-CLIO. p. 229. ISBN 1851096361. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  8. ^ Film World, Volume 14. T. M. Ramachandran. 1978. p. 306. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  9. ^ Baskaran, Sundararaj Theodore (1996). The eye of the serpent: an introduction to Tamil cinema. East West Books (Madras). p. 176. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  10. ^ Cinema in India, Volume 3. Mangala Chandran. 2003. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  11. ^ a b c Khajane, Muralidhara (4 June 2015). "From publicity boy to star director". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 9 September 2023. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  12. ^ Siddareddy, Venkat (2007). "interview".
  13. ^ Shashi, S. S. (2001). Encyclopaedia Indica: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Volume 97. Anmol Publications. p. 392. ISBN 8170418593. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  14. ^ "Now, Kannada directors get into the boxing ring". bangaloremirror.com. 27 June 2015. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  15. ^ "Sign in to get into Puttanna theatre, after 7 years". Daily News and Analysis. 30 January 2011. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  16. ^ "Demolition of iconic landmark Puttanna Theatre begins". newindianexpress.com. 23 July 2012. Archived from the original on 15 July 2015. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  17. ^ "Puttanna Theatre to be reopened". jayanagar.com. Archived from the original on 12 July 2015. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  18. ^ The Mysore Economic Review, Volume 73. 1988. p. 56. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  19. ^ Janata, Volume 41. 1986. p. 80. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  20. ^ a b "17th National Film Awards" (PDF). Directorate of Film Festivals. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  21. ^ "20th National Film Awards". International Film Festival of India. Archived from the original on 5 November 2013. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  22. ^ "Saheba movie review: Bharath has crafted a smooth flowing story that has a captivating effect".

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