- Written by Puttanna Kanagal
- Directed by Puttanna Kanagal
Naagarahaavu - Movie Highlights
It is not every day that classics are made but once in a while miracles happen. And one such film without which the history of the Kannada film industry is incomplete is undoubtedly 'Nagarhaavu' (King Cobra). Based on T R Subba Rao's (Ta Ra Su)three novels 'Nagarahavu', 'Ondu Gandu Eradu Hennu' and 'Sarpa Mathsara', legendary director, Puttanna Kanagal, created this masterpiece with the then newcomer 'Kumar' (Puttanna renamed him as 'Vishnuvardhana'). This was Vishnuvardhana's first movie as the lead and its success paved way to his stardom who eventually morphed into one of the most successful leading actors and rests in the annals of history of Kannada film Industry forever. Also another popular actor Ambarish went on to reap the benefits of this film and became a leading star also leaving an undeniable impression on Kannada cinema. The film was a huge success and went on to win State and National awards. One of the biggest hits of its time but even after 40+ years of its release cinephiles are still decoding the secret of its success which remains an all-time favorite movie for Kannada film lovers. It was remade in Hindi as 'Zehreela Insaan', directed by Puttanna Kanagal himself. It was also remade in Tamil as 'Raaja Naagam' and in Telugu as 'Kode Nagu'.
The story revolves around a short tempered Ramachari (Vishnuvardhana), a young man whose anger is his weakness. He is difficult to reason with and has a great deal of pride. Chamayya Master (Ashwath) is the only person who seems to understand and convince him from any wrong. Ramachari is unpopular in the whole town of Chitradurga (a town in southern Karnataka) as an ill-tempered boy and is disliked by many people in his college. Ramachari has a friend Varada (Shivaram) whose beautiful sister Almelu (Aarathi) is harassed by a hooligan, Jaleela (Ambareesha). Varada asks for Ramchari's help in teaching a lesson to Jaleela so that he stops eve teasing. Ramachari agrees based on the condition that he should marry Almelu. After he teaches a lesson to Jaleela, both Ramchari and Almelu fall in love but her parents are opposed to their union. He is also deceived by Varada that he never promised him anything which leads to Almelu marrying a boy of her caste. At this point, the teacher Chamayya intervenes in Ramachari's life and says to give up hope on Almelu. He convinces Ramachari by making him understand that sacrifice is a greater act than selfish love. Ramachari, confused, agrees to his teacher and sacrifices his love. This has serious consequences on Ramachari's relationship with his master when he later discovers that instead of life of luxury, Alamelu has been forced into a life of prostitution. After Alamelu, Ramachari is pursued by Margaret (Shubha), a girl from his college. Later in an ego tussle between the two, Ramachari kisses Margaret and they soon fall in love. But such a situation arises that their love is not accepted by the society as they are from different caste. Once again his master interferes to convince him, but this time Ramachari is not to budge. What are the consequences and how the relation between the master and his protege changes forms the crux of the story?
Known for the way he weaves his characters along with highlighting the social issues in films like 'Sharapanjara', 'Gejje Pooje', 'Manasa Sarovara', 'Paduvara Halli Pandavaru', 'Ranganayaki' etc, this film is no less than a masterpiece. The film primarily revolves around the protagonist's relationship with his teacher and his love interests Alamelu and Margaret who play pivotal parts in his life. Set in the 70's, many of the social conventions shown may now seem outdated, but there are some that still apply to-day. At almost 3 hours Naagarahaavu, with over-the-top drama (by today's standards) may seem outdated but it's an interesting film to watch and nothing less a bit of an epic. The script and the dialogues are very gripping and powerful. Ramachari is compared to a King Cobra. Dangerous, yet respected but a misfit in the so called society. The conversation between the Guru and Shishya is the highlight of movie all through. The relationship between Ramachari and Chamiah is well written and excellently portrayed. Chamayya and Ramachari have differences of opinion over what is right and wrong. Chamayya is more willing to blend in with the society while society does not accept Ramachari into it nor allows him to change due to its double standards and hypocrisy that make him rebel against the conventions. The film begins and ends with the same images of rocks and the sun viewed through a red filter, presumably an indication that despite the tumultuous events portrayed, by the end nothing has actually changed. Shot in Chitradurga, Karnataka, known for its rock formations and the fort, thus giving it a different dimension. With Puttanna's great direction, superb performances from everyone and Vijayabhaskar's fantastic music, it is an all-time favorite movie and remains popular till date. 'Karpoorda Bombe Nanu', 'Baare Baare Chendada Cheluvina' (first slow motion song of Indian Film Industry) and 'Kannada Naadina Veera Ramaniya' all are still memorable.
Powerfull performances are another great aspect of this film. Vishnuvardhana in his first as a lead is simply awesome as an angry young man. He literally lives the character of Ramachari. He is the soul of the movie and there are no words to describe him. He has a great screen presence required for the role and carries out the various emotions of the character effortlessly. Same with Ashwath, as stern yet compassionate teacher, he is just excellent. There is real warmth between them and both do an excellent job of capturing the respect and love towards each other. Aarti as Alamelu and Shubha as Margaret are good in their roles. The film also has some good performances from the gifted supporting cast which includes Ambareesh, Shivaram, Lokanath, Leelavathi and Dheerendra Gopal etc.
It is deservedly called as a classic film because they don't make movies like these anymore!