It is yet another inseparable loss to Kannada cinema industry. The 85 years old veteran actor who was like institution in acting department the most simple, disciplined, dedicated Dr K.A.Ashwath died early morning on Monday (18th of January 2010) at BM Hospital in Mysore. He was suffering from ill health from last six days. The supply of blood to brain nerves was the difficult problem for the ‘Chamaiah Meshtru’. Ashwath came to cinema at the mid 30’s and for nearly four and half decades he acted in variety of roles. He is known for dialogue delivery and histrionics that were so perfect.
The Meshtru goes after the Student! After passing away of Dr Vishnuvardhana the student of him as Ramachari in Nagarahavu the Meshtru also departs. In twenty days the Kannada cinema industry suffered three major losses – Dr KS Ashwath, Dr Vishnuvrdhana and Dr KS Ashwath!
After one year of entry of Dr Rajakumar this noted actor made debut in ‘Strirathna’ at the age of 35 and went on to act in nearly 365 films. When he declared retirement in 1994 he was forced by Dr Rajakumar family to came back to acting in ‘Shabdavedi’ in 2002. That is also because in over 370 of his films from ‘Strirathna’ to ‘Sirivantha’ 100 films are with Dr Rajakumar – 50 percent of Dr Rajakumar films.
We give you some of the highlights of this gem of an actor.
* Living in a modest house ‘Kalashri’ in Saraswathipuram in Mysore.
* Entered in 1955 with a role in ‘Stree Rathna’ (Dr Rajakumar debut was in 1954) directed by K Subramanyam. It was Lokeshwari Films, GK Venkatesh first film music. Sandhya paired opposite Ashwath. NS Krishnan and Madhuram were also in supporting roles.
* The top films of Dr KS Ashwath from ‘Strirathna in 1955 - Anna Thangi, Namma Makkalu, Shubamangala, Nagarahavu, Sri Purandaradasaru, Kasthuri Nivasa, Upasane, Muthina Haara, Parajitha, Jenugudu, Hrudaya Sangama, Hema Reddy Mallamma, Naa Ninna Bidalaare, Navajeevana,Sandhya Raga, Gejje Pooje, Mahasathi Anusooya, Onde Balliya Hoogalu, Belli Moda, Anuradha, Karunamayi, Kachadevayani, Kokila Vaani, Chintamani, Prabhulinga Leele, Boo Kailasa, Mangalya Yoga, Manege Bandha Mahalakshmi, Mahishasura Mardhini, Ranadheera Kanteerava, Bhaktha Kanakadasa, Kulavadhu, Nanda Deepa, Mahashilpi, Prema Mayi, Subba Shastri, SAthi Sukanya, Immadi Pulakeshi, Jedara Bale, Bangalore Mail, Amma, Bagirathi, Kalpavruksha, Uyyale, Grihalakshmi, Anirikshitha, Namma Mane, Visha Kanye, Bala Panjara, Devaru Kotta Vara, Mathu Thappada Maga, Auto Raja, Naradha Vijaya and recently ‘Bhoopathy’ and ‘Sirivantha’.
* Ashwath-Pandari Bai (near 35 films together), Ashwath-Leelavathi was hit pair in the supporting cast.
* The recipient of first Dr Rajakumar award in 1993-1994 K.S.Ashwath
* In this industry there is no job or financial security. I spent my 50 years in this industry through my discipline, modest living standards and devoting time to the upbringing of my family.
* When he announced retirement in 1994 he was with films ‘Indian’ and ‘Mamaravello Kogile Ello’.
* When Ashwath announced retirement from films in 1994 the same year his screen wife Pandari Bai lost a hand in a road accident.
* When the bank rate of interest came down from 15 percent to 10 and nine Ashwath felt economically unstable.
* Ashwath lone son is Shanker. His grandson is Skandha a swimming champion. Daughter in law Sudha
* He had a paralytic stroke and his tablet bill was Rs.1500 to Rs.2000. that he was not able to bear.
* KS Ashwath was a good eater. He was having only one bad habit and that was eating well.
A flash back of ‘Chamaiah Meshtru’ aka KS Ashwath.
After having dedicated five precious decades of his life to Kannada film world which in turn gave him neither professional nor financial security K.S.Ashwath announced his retirement in a small function at Chamrajaranagar in May 1994 announced his retirement. One of the incidents that Ashwath recalled at that time was ‘a producer came and booked me for his film - He was in a tearing hurry. He took the dates and slammed the advance fee on my palm and left. I was not told anything about the film or my role in it. A few weeks after I was taken to a muhurut shot at a temple at 8th cross Malleswaram, Bangalore. The make up man did me up and I had no idea what was going on. When the make up man asked me what sort of moustache he would give me, I could only plead ignorance. Finally the camera was all set to roll. The lead actor and a heroine were also there. I was asked to sit in front of the deity and pray. I was seething with anger but I controlled myself. My grimace me it clear to the producer that I was angry. He asked whether I was comfortable. I told him I was not as I did not know anything about the film to be shot or my role or why I should be praying to the deity. ‘You mean to say nobody told you anything about the story, you role and this shot?’ he asked. How is an artiste supposed to function in such atmosphere and condition? That is because of the developments that deeply hurt him.
The last interview with Dr KS Ashwath at the audio release of SV Rajendra Singh Babu Kannada film ‘Mohini’
Ashwath pride of Kannada filmdom
Veteran Kannada cinema actor K.S.Ashwath who brought additional dimension to the supporting actor’s fraternity is leading a cool and calm life in Mysore. The respected actor is called as ‘Maryadha Purusha’ of Kannada cinema.
He was surrounded by a few journalists at Atria Hotel after his dinner when he had come to jointly release the audio cassette of ‘Mohini…., Kannada film with Kannada Development Board President Dr.Siddalingaiah. He came to Bangalore from Mysore with his daughter to attend the audio function. This is unexpected occasion for me. In the six long years ill health I have detached from filmdom. The God has lent me an opportunity to mingle with the Industry again he said. When Ashwathji was invited for a role in ‘Savira Mettilu’ the 38 years ago unfinished project of Puttannaji he had told ace director K.S.L.Swamee that it seems he is living today to act in this long pending project.
Excerpts of an interview with 82 years old Gentleman actor par excellence:
How are you Ashwathji?
From the paralytic stroke to left side of my body I have recouped. My heart is very strong. I can’t walk for more than 40 minutes.
How you are spending your time?
In recollecting the memories!
What is that?
Firstly I tell you it is nothing but good old days. Secondly I tell you that I can speak on two points and I cannot say anything on the present day cinema.
What are those two points?
You journalists have to come to me I have to tell you something. But I will tell you one experience of mine.
We are curious to hear?
My park friend told me that ‘Nagarahavu’ is coming in television one day. I wanted to see that 34 years old film. I was anxious to see. I came home and switched on the TV. But ‘Kotigobba’ Kannada film was on air. I was taken aback and quietly watching it. My park friend rang up asked how do I find it after watching an hour of ‘Nagarahavu’ film. I told him ‘Kotigobba’ is coming in TV. He asked me to change the channel to Ushe. Immediately I did like that on his instruction and watched the remaining portion of ‘Nagarahavu’.
What did you felt after watching it?
I remember the talk I had with Puttannaji behind Chitradurga hill. Puttannaji was perturbed. He wept. He told after giving so many good films Kannada producers are not asking him to direct. I remember that pain in Puttannaji even to this day. I wonder to even this day why such a thing has happened to Puttannaji.
What is another point you want to make?
Only directors like Puttanna and S.V. Rajendra Singh Babu add value to the character artistes. They make a supporting actor like me feel proud.
Sir, you know our culture is becoming defunct?
Laughs! I know hudgru hudgiru avarava dress exchange madkonda hage kanuthe.
A senior citizen like you can give some advices?
This question does not come under my jurisdiction.
How do you spend time?
I sleep well. I do walking read newspapers and then watch television.
Are you happy with newspaper reports?
No. Today’s newspaper policy is not good. In a newspaper the entire state and country development was given in the past. But today what happens in Mysore is only highlighted in that particular edition. Person like me is interested in knowing what happened in Dharwar or Belgaum. I want to inter act for what’s happening in remote distant village. Why can’t they focus?
How this state can remember icon of Kannada cinema Dr.Rajkumar?
He has already done unforgettable work. No one can wipe him away from our memory. What I would say about Dr.Rajkumar is that he practiced what he did on screen. He became part and parcel of our social life. This is not in the case of doctors, engineers, scientists and others.
Ashwathji why a national award has slipped away from you?
Yaakri Beku application haaki padeyo award? Till today I am recognized by people as ‘Chamayya Meshtru’ role in ‘Nagarahavu’. I am satisfied with that.