This day in 1990, a shining star disappeared when Shankar Nag met with a tragic, accidental death. Although in his short life of 35 years, he left behind a legacy that many can only dream of, his sudden death shattered souls across the country. The slot of 8.30 to 9 pm belonged to him despite the scarce number of television sets in the country at the time, Malgudi Days had the family and neighbours captivated. He had his share in Marathi theatre and Sandalwood too, being part of about 80 Kannada films in 12 years.
In the annals of filmdom, the triumph of his enthusiasm is reflected in commercial, art and bridge cinema. And what made him stand apart is that he always tried not be a part of the herd, while maintaining the charm of a common man’s hero, portraying characters that were close to real life.
Like many others who were touched by Shankar Nag’s magic, 50-year-old Krishnaraju, who produced two of Shankar Nag’s most successful films -- CBI Shankar and S P Sangliyana 2, too reveres the actor. So much so that the producer, who treasures the films that he made with Shankar, is currently fighting a battle with a TV channel over the rights of his movies and has even got a stay order from the lower court. “It is a matter of passion that we had for cinema. I see the films that I made with him, and he just comes alive. Nobody should use them for their own advantage. We had worked hard on them,” he asserts and remembers the hero as a man who was a rare mix of simplicity and creative edge in abundance.
“I got acquainted with him when CBI Shankar happened. I was new to the industry and so was the director, who was just one film old. At that point, Shankar was lying low as his films were not doing well and Gandhinagar was abuzz as to why I had invested money on a hero, whose career was in a dismal shape. But I took the risk and started the shoot,” says Krishnaraju, who revealed that the actor could sense the risk he was taking as a producer. “One day, he asked me as to why I was taking the risk of casting him in the film. I just mentioned that I had a certain faith and he questioned, ‘So you have the guts to invest in me’ and I said ‘Yes’,” he recalls.
According to the producer, many of the traits that he accumulated were because of Shankar. “He never differentiated between a light boy and a big artiste. He never demanded royal treatment and enjoyed eating food at the roadside eatery, relishing bajjis and bondas. I used to wonder as to why this person never behaved like an artiste. And then he told me, ‘Just because I am an artiste, does not mean that I have a separate heart’,” he recollects and emphasises that Shankar was a producer’s and director’s actor. “He never asked for an advance and never threatened to not dub if the settlement was not done. Cinema was not a business, but a passion for him,” says Krishnaraju.
Talking about Shankar’s amazing energy on the sets, Krishnaraju recalls, “He used to get ready for the shot the moment he got out of the car. He used to patiently wait for his shot while occupying himself by reading or writing. I remember during CBI Shankar, he was working on plans for Nandi Hills and the Metro. He had invested money from his own pocket for research to make the city better.” Recollecting the moment when he heard of Shankar’s death, the producer says, “I had spoken to him the day before his death and we were supposed to start our third film Shivaraj as part of the CBI Shankar series. He wanted to start after Dasara.”Dasara never came for Shankar but in his brief life, he inspired dreams. The star is ablaze still and will glitter on till eternity.