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Velugu Needalu
K Viswanath

Here is the the series that focuses on the many greats who lurk in the shadows behind the silver screen bringing out the best in them, to radiate and redirect their brilliance onto the silver medium. We hope that these articles would focus our attention and applause to these true "stars" to whom limelight and spot lights do not usually beckon upon.
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The sea was quite turbulent that day; the waves were crashing fast and hard against the unmoved rocks; unfazed by the attitude of the rocks the waves keep on addressing (appealing to) the rocks; Madhavi spots Balu sitting on one of the rocks pondering over the events that transpired after his mother's death; She comes running towards him eager to share her feelings, her ambitions (art) and ultimately her life with Balu. The background music (Illayaraja) soars just like the waves in the background. And just when she is about to reach him and hold his hand to never let go of it for eternity, she finds the man who left her hand at the altar looking at (for) her. Silence reigns. Madhavi retreats her steps (and intentions). Her husband moves forward a few steps. Balu chooses to remain in the background. Madhavi controls the surge (and urge) of her emotions. Her husband rises to the occasion at just the right time. Balu transforms his admiration and love for her into pure devotion (aaraadhana) right at that moment.

gunDelO chOTu choosukunna manishiki
moorthigaa kOvela kaTTi
bhaktigaa koluchukunna vaeLa
praema ganga urakulatO saagi saagi
baadhyatala aanakaTTula aagi
aaraadhanaa saagaraala Odi chaeru vaeLa
aavaeSamula uppenala jaDilO
tana manishini munchettha valenani kadili
aalOchanala tarangaalugaa taggi
nuDuTa boTTugaa chindaka
paadaala paaraNi tanu kaDugu vaeLa
sagara sangamam - karuNa ganga praema saagaraala
rasaananda saagaara sangamam

A classic K. Viswanath moment. A moment that screams of subtlety. A moment that urges the viewer to dig deep inside of him to try to understand what each of the characters might be undergoing. Madhavi's situation - torn between her love for Balu, her respect(?) for the tradition. Balu's condition - vacillating between his heart and his art. Husband's dilemma - unable to decide between what is good and what is right.

Set the classical (sometimes, semi-classical) music aside, set the semi-classical dances aside, set the soothing words aside, set the lilting lyrics aside, set the actors, their statures, their performances aside - Viswanath's movies revolve largely around these moments filled with simple yet profound emotions that convey a thing or two, saying a word or two about human drama.

When Rangadaasu becomes a collector and is posted to the same village as his parents, the whole village comes together to greatly rejoice the return of their son to their land. His mother watches the procession with from a distance and unable to contain the excitement and unable to conceal the giddy delight anymore, runs away far from the procession to her home dragging her husband into the hut enroute. Haridaasu is baffled by his wife's never seen before display of emotions. She closes the door, looks around for a second, drags him closer and plants a kiss on his cheek and says - "entha manchi koDuku nicchavayyaa!" and weeps in delight.

putrOtsAhamu tanDriki
putruDu janiyincinapuDu kalugadu janulA
putruni kanugoni pogaDaga
putrOtsAhambu nADu pondura sumatee!

Another classic Viswanath moment. The link he creates between a simple sumatee satakam poem and an otherwise ordinary moment of a child being recognized and lauded by the rest of the world in front of his parents, and his ability to expand on an emotion conveys a thing or two, saying a word or two about human drama. No loud words, no harping on the moment, no beating the emotion till the point of death. Touch the moment till it creates an impact and move away from it.

The medium he chooses to convey these moments neatly wrapped and nicely packaged is art - classical art. If it is vocal in SankaraabharaNam, it is dance in Saagara Sangamam, if it is instrumental in Sirivennala, it is vocational art in Swayam Krushi. The art that gradually is getting lost in the evolutionary process of times, tastes and attitudes. Sankara Sastry chides Sarada in front of his prospective in-laws for mis-stepping boundaries and wandering away from norms and traditions ("ala swara sankaram chaeya Daaniki siggu laeduTae neeku"). He atones his outburst at his innocent kid by offering haarathi right in his palm. While he retires to bed (but still unable to sleep because of the burnt palm), Sarada comes in with a cup of butter, gently applies to his palm and STARTS TO SING THE SWARAMS IN THE WAY IT IS MEANT TO BE SUNG. Words need not say more. It is not a question of finding words to the occasion, it is a situation where no more words are needed.

Another quintessential Viswanath moment

(click here for the Part 2)

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Also read Velugu Needalu of
Bapu Ramana

More series of articles by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
Some Ramblings on recently released films
Aani Muthyalu - Good films, but box office failures

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