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Monday, October 17, 2016

Memories of Malgudi

"It happened to us... I don' t think it can h a p p e n again," muses Ramesh Bhat, somewhat cryptically, as he is pulled back three decades into memories.The actor and associate director of the 1980s television series Malgudi Days, which acquired a cult following and still evokes sighs from the generation that grew up in those years, counts the series among his best work. "If I look back at my body of work and pick a project that was creatively satisfying, it is Malgudi Days," says Bhat of the series that marks its 30-year anniversary this year. "What really worked was our theatre background and the fact we all worked for the love of art," he says. The series, directed by the late Shankar Nag, comprised three seasons of 13 episodes each. Today, the work is vividly remembered as much for R K Narayan's simple yet seductive storylines as for the consummate performances of the actors and the work of the director, all of whom had a strong background in theatre. Among the cast were stalwarts Anant Nag, Girish Karnad, Suhasini Adarkar, B Jayashree, the late Vishnuvardhan and the late Vaishali Kasaravalli.

It all started when producer T S Narasimhan happened to read his son's college textbook, which was R K Narayan's 1952 novel, The Financial Expert. "My father was so taken by the plot that he went and in traduced himself to Narayan, who wasn't keen to talk to anyone from the film field," says T N Badrinath, son of Narasimhan, who died in 2013. The film adaptation of his 1958 novel, The Guide, directed by Dev Anand in 1965, had left Narayan bitter about his novels being adapted to the screen. "But my dad's brother knew Narayan very well, and that worked in our favour," says Badrinath. That meeting led to The Financial Expert being turned into the 1983 Kannada film, Banker Margayya."After Narayan saw the movie, he told my father, `I trust you'. A couple of years later Doordarshan approached Narayan to adapt his stories to TV, he told them only my father could do justice to it," recalls Badrinath. The shooting of Malgudi Days got underway in 1985, largely in picturesque Agumbe in Thirthahalli taluk, Shivamogga, which director Shankar Nag fell in love with after watching one sunset in Agumbe. Although some episodes were shot in Bengaluru and Devarayanadurga, the quaint village of Agumbe essentially became the fictional town of Malgudi. Actors and technicians who worked on the series say the people of Agumbe opened up their homes and hearts to the crew.

"There were no hotels in Agumbe back then, and the 100 odd actors and crew were lodged in houses in the village. Almost every house hosted one of the team. People's front yards were our bedrooms and the river was our shower. There was an old house and an inspection bungalow where a few people stayed," recalls Malnad Jagadish, the production controller. Badrinath adds that every member of the Malgudi family is still welcomed warmly by the people of Agumbe.
Director's cut
An actor-director who made the successful transition from theatre to cinema, Shankar Nag, who died in a road accident 26 years ago, was a man ahead of his times but, while they loved his vision, the crew remembers him as a demanding director. "We worked insane hours. People on the sets would often crib and say, `It should be named Malgudi Nights," Badrinath recalls, laughing. Manjunath Nayaker, the Swaminathan of Swami and Friends, believes Nag worked to ensure personal development of each individual on the sets. "I was a pukka Kannada boy. I knew no English or Hindi. I had no clue who R K Narayan or R K Laxman were. I auditioned and got the part. He taught us how to work in a group," says Manjunath. "We were all treated like adults. There was no question of junior-senior. For him, everyone was equal and people management was one of the biggest les sons I learnt from him." There was a softer side to the cricket-loving director. "I was shooting nonstop during Swami and Friends, while the other boys were playing. I broke down one day and said I didn't want to act. He just walked up and hugged me and announced "pack up" in the middle of a shoot. He bundled all the kids into a Matador van took us to Malpe beach.It was fun and that was the last I ever cribbed on the sets," says Manjunath.
And most of the crew says it was Nag's vision that kept them all going, and has ensured that the series endures. "Shankar put life into Malgudi. Be it the people in the background or the beauty of the surroundings, he knew how to capture it and in the process brought out the best in his actors and crew," says Bhat. "He wove together various aspects to recreate the charm of village life in the pre-independence era."
Behind the scenes...
H andling production was rough for the unit as they had to work out the logistics in a village 400km from Bengaluru.There were no cell phones in the 1980s, landlines were few and far away, and roads were terrible. "At times, it appeared we had to move heaven and earth to get a scene together. I've taken donkeys from Shivamogga and elephants from Bengaluru as props for the scenes," says Jagadish. Nag's wife, Arundathi Nag, who was dialogue writer, assistant editor and costume designer, brought a lot of props from her house. Austin and Hindustan cars were borrowed from friends, while trucks used to transport silk in Bengaluru and Ramanagara were used as period vehicles. Crowds were lured from nearby villages with the promise of lunch and bus fare. The crew even went in search of a household which had a newborn to play Swami's baby brother (in Swami And Friends).

No starry airs
Among the star line-up were R K Narayan's brother R K Laxman, who drew the charming black-and-white sketches for the television adaptation. The lilting opening tune and soulful background score was composed by acclaimed Carnatic musician L Vaidyanathan. Many of these stalwarts are no more--from Shankar Nag to Narasimhan and Vishnuvardhan to Vaidyanathan, but the crew remembers them all fondly. Badrinath says that Kannada superstar Vishnuvardhan volunteered to act in the series but his father said no as he could not afford him and didn't want someone to work for free. To which the superstar replied, `Don't worry about that. I just want to act.' It was Vishnuvardhan's first TV appearance, and he played the lead role in an episode titled Rupees 45 A Month. "We had stars from Bengaluru and Mumbai, but they were all so simple and had a no-nonsense approach on the sets," says Badrinath.

Source and Credit :- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/Memories-of-Malgudi/articleshow/54875456.cms                                                       
Forwarded by :- Shri. Jainendra Nigam PB News Desk prasarbharati.newsdesk@gmail.com

1 comment:

  1. And compare these classic serials of those days with the cheap stuff that is put out day in and day out on the TV channels of today!

    ReplyDelete

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