Puttanna Kanagal

Native name ಪುಟ್ಟಣ್ಣ ಕಣಗಲ್
Born Shubraveshti Ramaswamiah Seetharama Sharma
(1933-12-01)1 December 1933
Kanagal, Kingdom of Mysore, British India
Died 5 June 1985(1985-06-05) (aged 51)
Bangalore, India
Nationality Indian
Other names S. R. Puttanna Kanagal, Seetharama Sharma
Occupation Film director, producer, screenwriter
Years active 1957–1985
Spouse(s) Nagalakshmi (–1985)
Children 5

Puttanna Kanagal (born Shubraveshti Ramaswamiah Seetharama Sharma, 1 December 1933 – 5 June 1985), fondly called the 'Chitra Bramha' (God of Films, kannada)[1] was an Indian filmmaker and is considered as one of Kannada's cinema's greatest filmmakers.[2][3]

Background and personal life

Puttanna Kanagal was born to Ramaswamaiah and Subbamma in Kanagal, a village in the erstwhile Kingdom of Mysore into a poor Brahmin family belonging to the Mulukanadu subcaste and the Smartha sect.[4] 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 as a teacher. His job as a publicity boy brought him closer to theatre and subsequently to cinema.[5] His association with films began when he started working for B. R. Panthulu as an assistant director and also as his driver.[3] His first film as an assistant director was Rathnagiri Rahasya (1957).

In spite of his glorious film career, his personal life had apparent shades of mysticism and sorrow. Although married to Nagalakshmi Kanagal and sired children, he shared a very passionate relationship with actress Kalpana, which raised several eyebrows. Kalpana and Puttanna were two very great artists of their times. Together they bridged the fields of cinema and literature – considering the fact that the notably complex subjects of Triveni, were not only brought in their completeness into cinema world but were well acknowledged and have remained immensely popular by the audience. Sadly, after the majestic Sharapanjara the pair never worked together. Though he touched several social subjects which were considered taboo, as also the dogmatic mysteries with rigorous attention and meticulous research, he never tried to cast his own limitations, and tried living with his sorrows, as he lived with his glories.

Kanagal died on 5 June 1985 in Bengaluru, while in preparation of the movie 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.[6] Kanagal's assistants include Tamil directors SP. Muthuraman, P. Bharathiraja,[7][8] and T. S. Nagabharana.[9]

Although a majority of Kanagal's films were on offbeat or taboo subjects, generally women-centric,[6] 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.[3] 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.[10] He also directed a handful of films in Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi languages.

As a director

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 by Triveni Bekkina Kannu'. 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 was never released during his lifetime.

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

In devotion to Puttanna, Indian Maharaja of Hot Rain Songs 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...[11]

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

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.[12] 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.[10]

Awards and honours

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

National Film Awards
Filmfare Awards South
Karnataka State Film Awards


Year Film Cast Notes
1964 School Master Prem Nazir, K. Balaji Malayalam
1965 Pakkalo Ballem Kantha Rao, Rajasri Telugu
1966 Belli Moda Kalyan Kumar, Kalpana, Pandari Bai Debut Kannada film
Kannada, Karnataka State Film Award for Best Film
1966 Poocha Kanni Prem Nazir, Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair, Adoor Bhasi Malayalam
1968 Teacheramma Jaishankar, Vanisri, R. Muthuraman Tamil
1968 Palamanasulu Harinath, Jamuna, Pandari Bai Telugu
1969 Mallammana Pavada Rajkumar, B. Saroja Devi, Vajramuni, Dwarakish Kannada
1969 Kappu Bilupu R. N. Sudarshan, Kalpana, Balakrishna Kannada
1969 Gejje Pooje Kalpana, Gangadhar, Leelavathi, Aarathi, K. S. Ashwath National Film Award for Best Screenplay
National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Kannada
Kannada, Karnataka State Film Award for Best Film
1970 Karulina Kare Rajkumar, Kalpana Kannada
1971 Sudarum Sooravaliyum Gemini Ganesan, Nirmala, R. Muthuraman Tamil
1971 Sharapanjara Kalpana, Gangadhar Kannada, National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Kannada
, Karnataka State Film Award for Best Film
1971 Sakshatkara Rajkumar, Jamuna, Prithviraj Kapoor Kannada
1971 Irulum Oliyum A. V. M. Rajan, Vanisri, Nagesh Tamil
1972 Iddaru Ammayilu Shoban Babu, Vanisri, Gummadi Venkateswara Rao Telugu
1972 Naagarahaavu Vishnuvardhan, Aarathi, Ambarish Kannada, Karnataka State Film Award for Best Film
1973 Edakallu Guddada Mele Jayanthi, Ranga, Chandrashekar Kannada, Filmfare Award for Best Kannada Director
1974 Upasane Srinath, Aarathi, Seetharam Kannada
1974 Zehreela Insaan Rishi Kapoor, Moushumi Chatterjee, Neetu Singh Hindi
1975 Katha Sangama Rajinikanth, Aarathi, B. Saroja Devi Kannada, Karnataka State Film Award for Best Film
1975 Shubhamangala Srinath, Aarathi Kannada
1975 Bili Hendthi Anil Kumar, Aarathi, Margaret Thomson, Ambarish Kannada
1976 Phalitamsha Jaijagadish, Aarathi Kannada
1976 College Ranga Kalyan Kumar, Leelavathi Kannada
1978 Paduvaaralli Pandavaru Ramakrishna, Ambarish, Jai Jagadish, Jayashree Kannada
1979 Dharmasere Srinath, Aarathi Kannada, Filmfare Award for Best Kannada Director
1980 Hum Paanch Sanjeev Kumar, Raj Babbar, Shabana Azmi, Deepti Naval Hindi (as Writer)
1981 Ranganayaki Ambarish, Aarathi, Ashok Kannada, Filmfare Award for Best Kannada Director
1982 Maanasa Sarovara Srinath, Padma Vasanthi, Ramakrishna, G.Pandithachar Kannada
1983 Dharani Mandala Madhyadolage Chandrashekar, Srinath, Padma Vasanthi, Vijayalakshmi Singh Kannada
1984 Amrutha Ghalige Ramakrishna, Padma Vasanthi Kannada
1984 Runamukthalu Bharathi, Ramakrishna, Padma Vasanthi Kannada
1984 Masanada Hoovu Ambarish, Jayanthi, Aparna Kananda, died while directing halfway. Remaining of the film was directed by K. S. L. Swamy
2006 Savira Mettilu Jayanthi, Kalyan Kumar, K. S. Ashwath, Ambarish, Ramakrishna, Vajramuni Kannada, long time shelved and released


  1. http://www.gandhadagudi.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=9461
  2. "Seminar on Puttanna Kanagal on July 6". The Hindu. 2 July 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 Khajane, Muralidhara (3 June 2005). "Puttanna's big feats". The Hindu. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  4. Mulukanadu personalities
  5. "http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/fr/2005/06/03/stories/2005060303730100.htm". thehindu.com. June 3, 2005. Retrieved July 11, 2015. External link in |title= (help)
  6. 1 2 Kaskebar, Asha (2006). Pop Culture India!: Media, Arts, and Lifestyle. ABC-CLIO. p. 229. ISBN 1851096361. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  7. Film World, Volume 14. T. M. Ramachandran. 1978. p. 306. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  8. Baskaran, Sundararaj Theodore (1996). The eye of the serpent: an introduction to Tamil cinema. East West Books (Madras). p. 176. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  9. Cinema in India, Volume 3. Mangala Chandran. 2003. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  10. 1 2 "From publicity boy to star director". The Hindu. 4 June 2015. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  11. Siddareddy, Venkat (2007). "interview".
  12. "http://www.thehindu.com/features/from-publicity-boy-to-star-director/article7281616.ece". thehindu.com. June 4, 2015. Retrieved July 11, 2015. External link in |title= (help)
  13. Shashi, S. S. (2001). Encyclopaedia Indica: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Volume 97. Anmol Publications. p. 392. ISBN 8170418593. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  14. "Now, Kannada directors get into the boxing ring". bangaloremirror.com. June 27, 2015. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  15. "Sign in to get into Puttanna theatre, after 7 years". Daily News and Analysis. January 30, 2011. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  16. "Demolition of iconic landmark Puttanna Theatre begins". newindianexpress.com. July 23, 2012. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  17. "Puttanna Theatre to be reopened". jayanagar.com. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  18. The Mysore Economic Review, Volume 73. 1988. p. 56. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  19. Janata, Volume 41. 1986. p. 80. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
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