In first person: K. Viswanath

‘Change cannot be at the cost of values’

Print edition : October 18, 2013

K. Viswanath. Photo: K. Gajendran

Somayajulu in "Sankarabharanam".

100 years of Indian Cinema

EVERY time a mediaperson meets me, his/her first question is: “What makes your films so everlasting?” My reply is almost always the same: chemistry is what it’s all about for a film to be eternal. It only shows that people respect and revere culture and tradition; that despite Westernisation, they still love being Indian, being Telugu.

I am enjoying the evening of my life and I have no regrets. People still recognise me as so-and-so. Fans celebrated 33 years of Sankarabharanam and 25 years of Swarnakamalam. When analysts, columnists and critics speak of Telugu cinema, they still adopt the “Before Sankarabharanam and after Sankarabharanam” yardstick. What more can I ask for?

I am basically very conservative—of conservative principles—and have always upheld our culture, language, music and tradition, and I believe in our values. Yes, there’s been a lot of modernisation, Westernisation and metamorphosis. Do I accept these? Yes. Any change has to be in accordance with the requirements of time. We need to accept it all as welcome but not very healthy in a broad sense. Not at the cost of our values.

Take all my Telugu films— Siri Siri Muvva, Seetamaalakshmi, Sankarabharanam, Swathi Muthyam, Swarnakamalam, Sagara Sangamam or any of all my three-dozen-odd Telugu films made in the past four decades—they have the same, strong thread going through them, with the technical aspects, be it the music or the camera, driving them to the threshold of showcasing the scenes as unforgettable experiences of the five senses.

What do I aim for? What’s my ultimate objective? “I am K. Viswanath”, a name given by my parents. I want to live it. Everything else comes later in life. I should be able to uphold my name and further, most importantly, see to it that I do not tarnish my reputation. That should be every film-maker’s aim. Even as an acclaimed person, I shall not be excused for a bad product. It’s difficult to retain that goodwill.

Enough about myself. Coming to Indian cinema, people ask me why it has not truly gone global or attracted the international spotlight, except of course, until recently. Yes, I do agree that S.S. Rajamouli’s Eega probably made up for all that we lost; that is, if we agree we have lost out on time and fame. But I do not agree with this school of thought.

We have all seen and lived with stalwarts like L.V. Prasad, with whom I have worked as a sound engineer in the initial days of my career. There is Vasan and there are artists like Nagaiah, Kannamba, who believed, like the artists in the good old days, in doing everything they were expected to—deliver their dialogues, cry, show anger, sing, dance and fight when they were supposed to—in the movies.

That was the beginning of film-making. Now, someone else delivers the dialogue, someone does the stunts, fights for you. But, as they say, life is evolving and like a cobra shedding its skin, one by one, the multilayered skin of talent has been shed. I am not belittling the capability or capacity of artistes but only of the changes that were brought on by time.

I believe that Indian films are all about us: our culture, language, people and tradition. We have been so preoccupied with being creative for ourselves, by ourselves, that we simply haven’t thought of appreciation in the global arena. We probably always had one objective only riding uppermost in our minds: what do we tell our children, what do we leave for them?

In Indian cinema, nothing is impossible. Everything is material for poetry, said the great Sri Sri and anything can be made entertaining and watchable. However, there is no formula for success. It’s not algebra or trigonometry, and we just think there is a formula because we have to hold on to something, according to K.V. Reddy, who made films for Nagi Reddy.

The multimedia explosion, the technology that we Telugus are becoming known to adopt and adapt, has definitely made an impact on Indian cinema, and internationally too, we are making our presence felt. What else can I say, as our cinema takes the turn, after 100 years?

As told to Suresh Krishnamoorthy

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