HYDERABAD: It was a wet monsoon evening in 1980 in Rome. The open-air theatre in the historic city was screening ‘Sankarabharanam’ for an international audience at a film festival. Just 18 minutes of run time was left when there was a heavy downpour. You would have expected the 1,200-plus audience to run and seek shelter. But not one moved. They sat spellbound in their seats in perfect silence with only the sound of the rain and the song (Dorakuna ituvanti seva) reverberating. The movie ended. The wave of applause went up in a deafening crescendo.
“After having received that standing ovation from an international audience who did not know a word of Telugu, there is nothing more I can say to sum up K Vishwanath’s talent as a director,” recalls E Nageshwara Rao, the film’s producer.
Such brilliance was no flash in the pan. Almost every year since 1980, the director has been delivering classics that not just went on to become blockbusters but earned critical acclaim too.
Be it the yearning for art of a misunderstood genius in Sagara Sangamam (1983), the love story between a simpleton and a widow in Swathimutyam (1986), the inclusiveness of a speech-impaired girl falling in love with a visually-impaired flautist in Sirivennela (1986) or the angst of a reluctant artist in Swarnakamalam (1988), every movie was ahead of its time, in intention and execution. Interestingly, all his movies were based on backdrop of a traditional, middle-class milieu.
The Kalatapasvi, as he is called, is truly one who worships the arts. He introduced the common man to the sweetness of Carnatic ragas. Keertanas in his movies went on to become what young girls would sing in local talent shows. His movies were what young grooms would take their brides out for their first outing to show they had class and taste. His movies are the kind that can still stop you in your tracks. It is not surprising that he continues to rule the list of legendary directors of Indian cinema.