Thursday, September 30, 2010

In memory of a genius

Some people appear like a bright flash in the black of the night sky. We, wandering commons, look up in awe and wonder, watching them unfurl into various fascinating shapes, textures and patterns. A genuine smile of unabridged enthusiasm floods our hearts as we soak in each and every moment of their presence in our humble midst. After a minute of such dazzling display, the light vanishes. Boom! As if it never existed in the first place. Its pitch dark again - except, this time its darker than before. Such was his presence in our lives.

It has been two long decades today - September 30 - since Kannada film maker, actor, maverick and genius beyond mortal comprehension - Shankar Nag – passed away suddenly one day in a tragic road accident. I was 12 years old then and the only memory I have as a reaction to hearing the news was that of absolute shock. That emotion lasted a good minute. Once that minute passed by, two extremely juvenile and excruciatingly immature questions crossed my mind – One, does this mean no more Malgudi Days? And two, does this mean there is no school tomorrow?

Today, 32 years old and still in desperate need for some critical wisdom, I can't help but feel pity for that ridiculous version of myself who couldn't think beyond a stupid holiday. As the entire nation drives itself insane with meaningless speculation about the verdict on the Ayodhya issue, I am sure around the world there also exists a good group of folks like me who are silently paying their humble respects to Shankar today. This, as I see it, is the true loss for a nation which has come such a long way in trying to gain a foothold of its own in a world where nothing seems good enough. As the courts decide the fate of a piece of land everyone is claiming to be so divine that mortals are now judging its future, the true context of a loss as huge as Shankar's certainly needs to be acknowledged. We build our bridges today, we sing our songs, we send our movies to the Oscars and we dance in front of huge posters of our regional stars. Yet, what makes me cringe with disdain is how we might never really know the answer to that all illusive question – 'What if Shankar had still been around?' A man who hadn't even turned 35 had set afire so many brilliant milestones both on and off screen, that one is forced to wonder what miracles that talented gentleman would have whipped out had his presence still been in our stink pool of misplaced jingoism and nauseating hero worship called the 'Kannada Film Industry'.

Can you imagine the ferocity of projects had Nag and the likes of Kasaravalli or Karnad joined forces? Phew! It gives me goosebumps just thinking about the possibilities. The range of extremely well crafted, smart, sensitive and most importantly, relevant cinema that would have flourished all over the place seems to transcend all limits. No room for nonsensical 'macchu' movies directed by folks who cant think of an original script even if their life depended on it. No place for semi-literate film makers who still stick to the age old formula from the 80s by packaging it with Bollywood-like wrappers and imported damsels. Good bye remake movies that only amplify the fact that Kannada film makers and audience are both beings beyond hope of ever managing to shine in the light from the fires in their bellies! Ah – the possibilities. Endless. Literally, endless. I won't even begin to discuss what might have been had Nag (who had already managed a national presence with Malgudi Days) stepped in to start making collaborative projects which could have included the likes of Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher, Om Puri, Nana Patekar et al. Breathe-taking options emerge.

So long, Shankar. Wherever you are, whatever you became, know this – we will never forget you. We will forever keep you alive in our thoughts, actions and inspirations. You will live in our homes through your movies, your words, your productions and your vision. Thank you for coming into our lives, even if it was for such a brief moment. And if you ever decide to be born again as a Kannadiga, please come back as a film maker. I am sure we will need you desperately even then.


PS: A website dedicated to Shankar:

8 reflections:

mouna said...

what more can a twelve year expect, except a holiday? :)

sometimes i still do this.

ShaK said...


I agree. As a 12 year old there definitely isn't anything else in sight at such instances. But, I was merely pointing out how meaningless that very instance feels today considering how I wasn't aware then of its lengthy impact. Something I felt I should acknowledge today.

Thanks for the words. :)


Chetan said...

I still like him, I have the collection of Malugi Days.. My dad still says how he used to bunk colleges to see Shankar Nag's movies :)

How can i forget SP sangliyana , everytime it was aired in DD1 on sundays we enjoyed it fully...

I see him everyday in Autostands and still he has fans who admire him silently :)

Miss you sir, As Shakri sir rightly said we need you for sure.....

ShaK said...


Indeed. He will always remain a part of those who have grown up with his work. Its a shame the new generations will never completely understand why it is so.

Thanks for the words, mate.


G.Bhaskar said...

When I used to see Swamy and Friends I always thought how amazingly S.Nag had captured Narayan's stories. It is not easy to direct children. So it is truly a rare feat that Shankaranna achieved in those low tech days. You are right when you say what would have happend if he had been with us in this high tech world. Kannada film world would have taken over the entire world I think!!!

ShaK said...


Well said,friend. Directing kids indeed is a very tough task specially if the stories being narrated are that of RK Narayan's!Shankar did a fab job at that. I doubt anyone else would've done justice to the series the way he did. Visionary indeed!

Thanks for the words.


Anonymous said...

Shankar Nagarakatte would definitely have been the first person to send a Kannada movie to the Oscars. vidhi saar. vidhi.

ShaK said...


True.In life, the one thing that hurts the most is the 'What If'. Good to know I am not the only one who knows the colossal loss Shankar's death meant to the world of both cinema and theater. Thanks for your words, friend.