In every nook of Karnataka and Bengaluru, Auto drivers and their respective stands adore Shankarnag’s portrait— you would either see a still from his widely celebrated movie from Autoraja or SP Sangliana. Autoraja is one of the very few movies in the Kannada film industry which had a deep impact on the hearts of auto drivers. Even after 27 years of Shankar Nag’s death – numerous auto stand associations celebrate Shankar Nag’s birthday on November 9th. In all the programs, Shankar Nag’s mimic is bound to fetch non-stop applause.
Till date, Shankar Nag’s name reverberates in all the houses of Karnataka. In a career spanning 12 years, he made a remarkable and ever-lasting impact in the Kannada film industry. His films such as Muniyana Madari, Nodi Swamy Navirodu Hige, Lorry Driver, Karmika Kallanalla etc., have a lasting impact on the working class of the society. Nag is considered as one of the pioneers in the Kannada Film Industry— feeding a high-quality content to the viewers. The swift flow of thoughts on the screen without claptrap were his strongest plus points. Many of his movies resonate his intuition to work towards a better society.
Shankar debuted as an actor in Girish Karnad’s epic film Ondanondu Kaladalli in 1978 and earned a national award at the Delhi International Film Festival with his flawless acting skills. Then the rest is history, he went on to act in more than 80 films from 1978 to 1990 besides wearing double hats such as screenplay, direction, production, and numerous other works under the cloud called ‘cinema’. He is the only actor to act in 15 films in a single year after Dr Rajkumar, who acted in 16. His directorial debut ‘Minchina Ota’ fetched him several state awards. However, he went on to direct classic movies such as Geetha, Ondu Muttina Kathe etc. In Ondu Muttina Kathe, Shankar Nag was the first director in the Kannada Cinema to show legendary Dr Rajkumar as a fisherman fighting for his hard-earned Pearl. Until then, Dr Raj was employed in unvaried roles.
Ramesh Bhat, one of the close associates of Shankar Nag, once told an English daily that, “He also literally lived in his car. He had a typewriter, book, and food in his car. So, he would read, write scripts, or type in his car. He was also a man who thought ahead of his time.” Even after shining like a bright star in the Kannada Film industry, Nag did not stick only in the cinema field, he stepped in to direct R.K Narayan’s Malgudi days as a television serial. However, the serial was a hit and swami— the lead character in the serial was a household name, and Doordarshan gained immense popularity in the 1980s. He also started Rangashankara— a well-known theatre hosting numerous plays. Upendra— one of the finest actors in the Kannada Cinema industry once told in an interview that, ” Shankar Nag’s energy is immeasurable, he never wasted a single minute in his clock, he was always working on a story, script, and direction.”
Shankar Nag is larger than life and an idol who ought to be worshipped by millions of Kannadiga’s. In 1980’s, he conceptualized Metro Rail Bengaluru, started Country Club, and came up with low-cost housing projects. Moreover, he had a series of discussions with Ramakrishna Hegde about the developmental initiatives in Karnataka. He always believed that ‘It will be shameful to tell my kids that I was successful as an actor and not as a human being and not contributing to the society’. Unfortunately, before Shankar could accomplish his plans, he ended in an ill-fateful accident leaving lakhs of his followers in mourning, but, he lives on through his work in the Kannada film industry.
Shamanth B.S, A Bengaluru based author with an interest in Media, Politics, and much more fascination around us.