K. Vishwanath is no more: Hum to chale pardes

Dadasaheb Phalke laureate K. Vishwanath passed away at 92 on February 2 of age-related ailments. Photo: Publicity Photo

The monumentally-talented film director, Dadasaheb Phalke laureate Kasinadhuni (K.) Vishwanath (92), passed away February 2. He is survived by wife and three children. Suffering from age-related ailments, the filmmaker breathed his last a around midnight. Interestingly, his tour de force, Sankarabharanam, was also released the same day 43 years ago. As the famous song from his Hindi debut film, Sargam, went ‘Hum to chale pardes‘.

Born on February 19, 1930 in Guntur district, Kalatapasvi — as he was popularly known — was also a screenwriter and acted in a couple of hit movies. He had directed over 50 films in Telugu, Hindi and Tamil languages.

Known for Sankarabharanam (which he remade in Hindi as Sur-Sangam), Siri Siri Muvva (which was remade as his blockbuster Hindi debut, Sargam), Saptapadi, Subhalekha, Sagarasangamam. Swathimuthyam, Sutradharulu, Sruthilayalu, Subhasankalpam, Apathabandhavudu, Swayam Krushi and Swarnakamalam, his Swathimuthyam, featuring Kamal Hassan, was India’s official entry for Best Foreign Language film at the 59th Academy Awards. It was also remade in Hindi as Eeshwar. It was noticeable that most of his movie titles, including four in Hindi, began with the letter ‘S’!

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K. Vishwanath began his film innings as sound recordist for Vijaya Vauhini Studios, Chennai. After a short stint as a sound engineer, he began as assistant director under Adurthi Subba Rao (known to Hindi film viewers as the director of the super-hit Milan in 1967) as an assistant director on the 1951 Telugu film Pathala Bhairavi.

His debut directorial venture was Aatma Gouravam in 1965, which won the State’s Nandi Award for Best Feature Film as Debut Director. The last movie he directed was Subhapradam in 2010, and in Hindi, his swan song had been Dhanwaan in 1993.

As an actor, K. Vishwanath also starred in about 20 films in Telugu, Kannada and Tamil films, including Vajram, Narasimha Naidu, Nuvv Leka Nenu Lenu, Lingaa, Uttama VillainSubhasankalpam and Oppandu.

Vishwanath was conferred the Indian government’s highest honor, the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke award, in 2017, and the Padma Shri in 1992. He also won five national film awards, seven Nandi awards, 10 Filmfare awards and the Raghupathi Venkaiah Award from the Andhra Pradesh government.

Chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao of Telangana and Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy of Andhra Pradesh played rich tributes to the writer-actor-filmmaker, stating that he had put Telugu films and culture on the global map.

A.R. Rahman tweeted, “Anjali tradition, warmth, heart, music, dance, love …..your movies filled my childhood with humaneness and wonder! #ripkviswanathji.”

Mammootty stated, “Deeply saddened by the demise of Sri K Viswanath Garu. Had the privilege of being directed by him in Swathikiranam. My thoughts and prayers with his loved ones.”

S. Thaman posted, “Sir You will be Remembered all thru Our Lives with Your Classics Sir. A greatest film Maker of all times #RIPVishwanathGaru. Such a Huge Loss to INDIAN Cinema. Legend #KVishwanath gaaru Rest In peace sir.”

Said Pravesh Sippy, producer and son of the late N.N. Sippy, “Aum Shanti We have lost a great director, a great human being today. He directed one of our biggest blockbuster film Sargam.”

Hindi films

Rakesh Roshan (who starred in and produced Kaamchor and Jaag Utha Insan with him, besides featuring in Shubhkaamna and Aurat, which was completed by Vishwanath’s assistant K. Sashilaal Nair as Aurat Aurat Aurat) stated, “I watched and learnt filmmaking from him. We did four films together. He would shoot in the day and then leave the editing of the footage to me in the evening. It was while I edited Vishwanath-ji‘s films that I realized I could direct.”

His distinguished innings in Hindi also included Sanjog and Eeshwar besides Sangeet, produced by T-Series. Like his South films, his Hindi movies, with a couple of exceptions, boasted of memorable music and the filmmaker had a special association with Laxmikant-Pyarelal (Sargam, Sur-Sangan, Sanjog, Eeshwar, Aurat). I had the privilege of meeting the veteran filmmaker in Mumbai and also conversing on phone in 2019.

Incidentally, Eeshwar was a film that Raj Kapoor wanted to make, as he had loved Vishwanath’s original—Swati Muthyam. And Subhash Ghai, at one time, was to produce the remake Sagarasangamam as Sagar Sangam with Kamal Haasan and Jaya Prada and music by Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Aurat Aurat Aurat features the first film song recorded by Talat Aziz, Chhota sa ghar banaye, recorded in 1980, with Lata Mangeshkar.

“I have a good ear for melody, but I am not trained in music and cannot differentiate between raags. My permanent music director, K.V. Mahadevan, composed such great songs in my films that I came to be associated with great music, and in Hindi films, Laxmikant-Pyarelal did the same,” the ace filmmaker had told me.

The late producer N.N. Sippy had once told me, “We were travelling in a train booked by us to a location in Andhra Pradesh for Sargam. As the small station where we were to alight neared, we saw the platform totally jam-packed, and we thought they were all fans of Jaya Prada and Rishi Kapoor. But they were all waiting for K. Vishwanath! The next day, I was even taken to a temple erected in his honor!”

Legends, as they say, go down, but only in history.

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