Think Kannada comedies, and you can draw up a long list of films. In fact, just Anant Nag and Ramesh Aravind’s comedy films of the 90s can make up an entire list. Here, I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid remakes, and come up with a list of movies that were on top of my mind.
Director: S Siddalingaiah
This is a classic comedy movie made in 1980 that centres around the mythological character of Narada. It stars the handsome Anant Nag in a double role. My favourite character in this movie is Gurupada. The songs that emerged from the beautiful combination of C Ashwath and L Vaidyanathan have lingered in people’s minds. ‘If Narada doesn’t step on the ground, he is not visible’ — the fight sequences that have been devised using this theory are among the favourite cinematic sequences of my childhood.
Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma
Director: Singeetam Srinivasa Rao
Srinivasa Rao has made a variety of movies, including several in Kannada with the legendary Dr Rajkumar. This movie is all about the circus of antics the hero and heroine get caught up in, to escape from a money-related problem. In fact, at the end of the movie, a real lion from a circus also shows up. The song ‘Ananda Ananda’ (did you know the music is by Singeetam?), Dr. Rajkumar’s breezy acting and Madhavi’s beauty, all stand out.
Tarle Nan Maga
This may seem like an odd choice in this list. Call it ‘adult comedy’, ‘cringe comedy’ or even ‘crass comedy’, but this is Kashinath’s protege Upendra’s very first movie as a director. So, in that context, the content is not entirely unexpected. The scene with Biradar at the beginning of the movie and the songs hint at how Upendra thinks and the gimmicks he can come up with. In fact, a couple of words from this film have found a prominent place in Kannada’s urban dictionary. It is very difficult to make a mainstream movie like this today; there’s so much content that will be considered objectionable today.
Director: Kodlu Ramakrishna
When this movie released in 1994, it failed to do well commercially. Surprising, because like the ‘Ganesha’ and the ‘Golmaal’ series of Anant Nag movies, this one too had a cult following. When I watch these movies, I get the feeling that many actors do not have the ease that Anant Nag lends a performance. Vinaya Prasad and Lokesh, Girija Lokesh and Doddanna, Satyabhama and Kunigal Nagabhushan, all of them are extraordinary pairs no doubt, but the real star in this housing society is the character who says, “Chennagi Helidri” (“you said it very well”).
If you feel Guruprasad only knows how to write ‘double-meaning’ jokes, please re-watch his movies. His wordplay and command over Kannada is very special. In this movie in particular, every dialogue is a ‘punch dialogue’. I’ve always felt bad that Rangayana Raghu does not get good roles in movies, but his character of ‘Hanesha’ in this movie is enough to showcase his talent.
Guruprasad apparently designed this character keeping his father in mind. The movie ends on a serious note and seems abrupt, but Guruprasad has said that this is not the actual conclusion he had planned.