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 Bedara Kannappa 1954

Rajkumar, Pandhari Bai, Raja Sulochana, and Narasimha Raju

Photo: www.chitraloka.com

MILESTONE Bedara Kannappa was a famous play of the Gubbi Drama Company, before it went on to become a film

It was exactly 54 years ago that “Bedara Kannappa”, a film that marked an important phase in Kannada cinema, was released. In the annals of Kannada cinema, May 7, 1954, goes down as a major landmark. It launched Rajkumar, who went on to become an iconic figure for Kannada film industry; it was the first film to run for 100 days; it brought the first National Award to Kannada cinema and also ushered in the period which gave stability to actors.

The ten-year period, from 1954-64 was crucial for Kannada cinema. In the two decades before “Bedara Kannappa”, apparently only 39 films had been made, but following this super-hit film, nearly 125 films were made. The era was not only significant for the number of films that were made, but there was a marked improvement even in terms of the making and technology. It also saw the entry of many new actors.

Singanallur Puttaswamayya Mutturaj was an actor with the Gubbi Company. In fact, “Bedara Kannappa” was a famous play of the Gubbi Drama Company, before it went on to become a film. Rajkumar was an actor with the Gubbi Company where his father played the harmonium. Mentored by his father, Rajkumar began learning music as a two-year-old and received training to become a stage actor. To this day, when Rajkumar’s beginnings as a stage actor are spoken off, it is invariably of him playing Arjuna in “Kurukshetra” and Narada in “Bhookailasa”.

There’s one story that says that HLN Simha, the director of the film spotted Rajkumar at the bus depot. But there’s also another one that says how HLN Simha and Gubbi Veeranna decided on him and rushed him off for a screen test in Madras.

In fact, it was HLN Simha who rechristened Muthuraj as Rajkumar. The film also marked the debut of G.V. Iyer as a scriptwriter. The others who starred in the film were Pandari Bai, Raja Sulochana, and Narasimha Raju. Music was by R. Sudarshanam and Nanjukavi’s devotional song “Shivappa Kaayo Tande” became a big hit.

When the film was ready, there were no distributors willing to pick it up. But thanks to the intervention of the chief minister of the state, S. Nijalingappa, they could release it through Karnataka Films. The owners of New Opera theatre in Mysore, where it ran for a 100 days, thought that at best it would run for two weeks. But they were in for a big shock when people from different parts of the state streamed in to watch the film.

Among those who turned up for the first show at Mysore, was Rajkumar himself with his father. People still remember that he sat on a little bench near the theatre and drank coffee.

Remembered for: The film gave Rajkumar his huge reputation and fan following.

DEEPA GANESH

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