Monday, June 24, 2024

Kannada film, ‘Viraatapura Viraagi’, shines a light on an unknown seer

Suchendra Prasad (left) in a still from the film

Suchendra Prasad (left) in a still from the film
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The film Viraatapura Viraagi had a silent release last month. The film is based on the life of Hanagal Kumaraswami, who is also known as the 20th Century Basavanna. Kumaraswami is popular in north Karnataka as the man who sacrificed everything to propagate education, music and performing arts in rural areas. “Some of the educational institutions, he founded are still running in Belgaum and Bijapur,” says the director BS Lingadevaru. “He used to travel by foot and occasionally by bullock cart to Bagalkote, Bellary, Bidar, to spread the word.

Lingadevaru’s name is synonymous with the award-winning film, Nannu Avanalla Avalu, which featured the late Sanchari Vijay and was about transgenders.

“Kumaraswami’s goal was to serve society. The film follows his journey, from his infancy to death. Even the title of the film, Viraatapura Viraagi , is an ode to the seer as Viraatapura is the place he hails from, explains the director.

Lingadevaru describes Viraatapura Viraagi as a film that puts the spotlight on a seer, who is not known beyond the borders of North Karnataka. “Hanagal Kumaraswami was born in 1867 and died in 1930. I call this a period film, which just about introduces the society to his profound works, ideology, and reforms in the pre-Independent era. His passion to support the arts and music was so intense that one day when he heard two blind boys singing, he brought them to his math and provided them with the training and education they needed.”

One of the boys went on to become the famed singer Panchakshara Gavai. “Though Kumaraswami did not personally train him, he arranged for teachers for Gavai and his brother from north India and Lahore. History says that Kumaraswami provided the teachers with hospitality during their stay here to train the boys.”

The director says the film is the result of three years of research.

Making the film was not easy, says Lingadevaru. “We were inspired by the students of Kumaraswami, who wanted to see his life come alive on the screen.”

Apart from Suchendra Prasad, who plays Kumaraswmi, the rest of the cast features local talent and real life seers and swamis. “They even dubbed for themselves. It was easy as they had to be themselves. I followed the same process in Nannu Avanalla Avalu, besides Sanchari Vijay the rest of the cast were actual mangalamukhis (transgenders).”

Director Lingadevaru

Director Lingadevaru
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

The film received a positive feedback for its music, cinematography and content, but could not be dubbed a commercial success. “We are organising special screenings for anyone who is interested in a peek at a biography and history of North Karnataka. Even if we have 50 people, we will screen the film.”

Viraatapura Viraagi is being screened across educational institutes in Karnataka. The film will be screened on March 26 as part of BIFFes in the Asian Competition category.

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