Salute to the GODLY Effort
hough Devvani – Sanskrit is the mother of all languages and most of the early films made in India were based on Sanskrit scriptures and stories, it is unfortunate that it was only in 1983 guru of cinema in southern India, Ganapathi Venkatramana Iyer, popularly known as G V Iyer or “Kannada Bheeshma” felt like making a movie in Sanskrit. In Kannada itself, the film Vasantasena, that was released in 1941, based on the Sanskrit play Mrichakatika by Shudraka and P Kalinga Rao made contribution in the same. It was GV Iyer’s Adi Shankaracharya who made the first ever film made in Sanskrit, the classical Indian language in which the Vedas were written. His journey and contribution in film making is inspirational and exceptional to many who want to bring Indianness in cinema.
GV Iyer started his career in acting at the very early age of eight when he joined the Gubbi Veeranna theatre group, founded by the pioneers and most prolific contributors to Kannada theatre. His first role as an actor in cinema was in the film Radharamana. He also acted in a number of other movies such as Mahakavi Kalidasa and Bedara Kannapa and soon started directing his own movies like Hamsageethe Ranadheera Kanteerava. Though his stories, lyrics and direction he not only made them commercially successful but also added enriched value of Indian dramatic traditions based in Sanskrit.
Being proficient in both both Kannada and Sanskrit he made the first movie in Sanskrit, about the famous philosopher Adi Shankara (1983). In the movie, Guru Iyer retained his trademark of popular movies, the play of symbols, and beautifully combined it with palpable Indian philosophy. That is the reason, the movie received the National Film Awards for Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Audiography and still regarded as a master piece in film making. He later went on to make a film on Madhvacharya in Kannada and Ramanujacharya in Tamil.
GV Iyer’s two remarkable movies such as Bhagavad Gita (1993) which was in Sanskrit and bagged Best Film at the National Film Awards of 1993. The film was also nominated for Best Film at the Bogotá Film Festival. He went on to make a movie portraying Swami Vivekananda’s life and thought realistically and that also with famous actors such as Mithun Chakraborty, Hema Malini and Sarvadaman Banerjee.
Unfortunately, his mega project on the Hindu epic Ramayana remained unfulfilled dream because of his sudden death on December 21, 2003 at the age of 87. But his heroics in film making will continue to stir many film makers to synthesise Sanskrit philosophy with popularity.