Puttanna Kanagal’s classic ‘Saavira Mettilu’ revived

October 31, 2006

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Photo: Courtesy: Gangadhar Mudaliar and Kamath/ Collage: RK

After 38 years, Basave Gowda has breathed new life into a movie.

After crossing many hurdles for nearly four decades, the second unfinished directorial venture of doyen of Kannada cinema S.R.Puttanna Kanagal’s ‘Saavira Mettilu’ has hit the screen last week. Perhaps in the world cinema a film started 38 years ago is releasing for the first time. Thanks to Dr.D.B.Basave Gowda and veteran director K.S.L.Swamee for fulfilling Puttanna’s dreams. Those appeared in the unfinished project of ‘Saavira Mettilu’ not living today are Kalyankumar, Pandari Bai, Vajramuni, music director Vijayabhasker, cameraman D.V.Rajaram, Nanjaraj Urs, Kanagal Prabhakara Shastry and others.

Not a remake, rehash or remix. It’s a revival: a film by Puttanna Kanagal, stopped midway nearly four decades ago, has just been completed and released last Friday (October 27).

Saavira Mettilu (1000 Steps) may enter the Guinness Book of Records for many reasons. Jayanthi, then 20, was the heroine. She’s 58 now, and she’s still the heroine in the movie. There’s been no film in which any heroine’s acted her age, both in the young and old roles. There’ve been films where the heroine adds on wrinkles and grey strands to look old, but nothing like this. And there’s Ashwath (her father in the film): he’s her father in the revived avataar also.

The story? It revolves around Jayanthi, a young girl who lives in the hills, and walks a 1000 steps down to her college, and a 1000 up, back home. She meets Kalyan Kumar, a rich young man, when his car’s punctured in the hills, his hand trapped under the car. Jayanthi helps him by lifting the car, and love blossoms. The parents fix the wedding date.

But, Ramu, who hankers after Jayanthi, has the wedding called off. He tells Kalyan’s orthodox mother that if Jayanthi married him, she (the mother) would be widowed, courtesy Jayanthi’s unlucky star. Later, Ramu’s murdered. Jayanthi’s accused of killing him. Though innocent, she accepts the verdict and lands in jail. She has her reasons.

Puttanna Kanagal had directed the film up to this point, in black and white. Recently, Basave Gowda, the co-director, actor and story writer of the film, decided to complete the film. But many who’d acted in the film, were dead.

He did not have the script too. “Kanagal got the script done only on the sets.” said Gowda in a tele interview. “Many dissuaded me. They said I’d lose money.” But others asked to be part of the film, and they did not want payment – 17 actors like Ambarish, Jayanthi, Master Hirannayya. It was their gurudakshina to Kanagal. They’d worked with him, he’d touched their lives.

The second part, in colour, has Gowda as the jail superintendent, and Anu Prabhakar as his assistant, piece Jayanthi’s story together and unravel the mystery. Jayanthi’s freed, the old lovers are united.

Gowda’s done the black and white parts in sepia, as a flashback, while incorporating the colour parts seamlessly. But it was a challenge. Says MN Swamy, editor, “The negatives were of poor quality, stuck to each other. It was tough to link the old and new stories by technique or emotion.” But the film’s done, passed the censors’ scissors unscathed.

“Saavira Mettilu also signifies the steps we take in life, one at a time, to reach our goal,” says Gowda. His journey with an unusual film has just begun.

The Kannada audience must thank Dr.D.B.Basave Gowda and veteran director K.S.L.Swamee for fulfilling the dreams of Puttanna. Those appeared in the unfinished project of ‘Saavira Mettilu’ not living today are Kalyankumar, Pandari Bai, Vajramuni music director Vijayabhasker, cameraman D.V.Rajaram, Nanjaraj Urs, Kanagal Prabhakara Shastry and others.

Those who are added to the cast when the film was started again by Basave Gowda are Ambarish, Ramakrishna, Sunderraj, B.V.Radha, Padma Vasanthi, Lakshmidevi, Hema Chaudhary, Jaya, Girija Lokesh, Ashalatha, Shivaram, Govinda Rao, Master Hirannayya, Mukyamantri Chandru, Doddanna, Govinda Rao, Shivakumar and others.

The famous flute player Pravin Godkindi has given the final touches to the music direction of Vijayabhasker. S Janaki, P Susheela, LR Ishwari, PB Srinivas, Sangeetha Katti, Kaushik have lent their voice for the lyrics of Nanja Raj Urs, Kanagal Prabhakara Shastri, Vijayanarasimha, Jayagopal, Prof. AR Mitra. Manjunath has done the remaining portion of cinematography of DV Rajaram.

Must watch for any film buff.

Kannada Rajyotsavada Haardhika Shubhashayagalu.

Also read:
‘Savira Mettilu’: Fusing past and present

Savira Mettilu

Brave venture by a veteran

Puttanna’s big feats

10 Responses to “Puttanna Kanagal’s classic ‘Saavira Mettilu’ revived”


  1. Puttanna Kanagal was indeed a gem and was almost like Satyajit Ray of Kannada cinema. Movies like “Sharapanjara” are still afresh in my mind. It hurts to see Kannada cinema in doldrums these days.

  2. decemberstud Says:

    A great tribute to Puttanna. From what I read/heard, Puttanna stopped doing this movie due to some differences with a few folks associated with the movie. Whatever the reason is, I guess we get to watch something “different”.

  3. shark Says:

    Truely an amazing feat! Che! I have to wait till the DVD is released to watch it here in US…:(

  4. TSSM Says:

    What a ‘break-through’ the film is !!!

  5. rk Says:

    Kishor,
    His films attracted audiences from other states. Have heard Rajnikanth, Mani Rathnam and other famous film personalities say in interviews that they used to come and watch his movies first day- first show. That reflects on his directorial abilities. Hats off to the class director!!

    D-stud,
    Thanks. Yes, me too heard that his short temper is said to have stopped the venture. (eega shaapa vimochane aagide….so all’s well that ends well)

    Shark,
    You said! Amazing feat it really is. If you get restless waiting for the DVD, you can come and watch here in Kailash. Daily 4 shows.

    TSSM,
    I cannot but agree with you. Was watching the song ‘Kannada naadina veera ramaniya’ from Naagara Haavu. Jayanthi has sparkled in that cameo role. The irony is that she has acted in so many good movies, but people relate her to this guest role. That shows how much she has ‘lived’ the role of Onake Obavva. (The joke is that when a teacher asked a student “Who is ‘Obavva’, the boy told ” Jayanthi, Miss”).

    Just seeing the posters, Jayanthi looks really good as a teenaged girl and as an old lady. There’s been no film in which any heroine’s acted her age, both in the young and old roles. So Jayanthi must feel herself lucky to have got this rare record!

  6. TSSM Says:

    38 years in one’s life !!! Imagine all that could have happened in veteran actor Jayanthi’s life? How many ‘thousand steps’ would she have ascended by now?

  7. rk Says:

    tssm,
    TRUE! And also in Ashwath’s life. He too has been in the movie when it started and when it was completed 38 years later!


  8. […] Puttanna Kanagal’s classic ‘Saavira Mettilu’ revived […]

  9. Mallikarjuna Says:

    Is this hype of 38 years …… real?
    I fail to understand this hoopla.
    What’s the point in taking up a shelved work puttanna himself wasn’t interested during his life-time?

    Adding to it, there was never a story. Producer has added some story himself & taking up on the acting too.
    To top it, movie is directed by Ravee. (It might be deja vu for Ravee , remember masanada hoo).

    I’ve seen quite a no. of puttanna’s movies. They were good, but not as great as they are praised for.
    IMHO, Vijay, Sidalingayya, V Somashekhar were much better in directing the movies.

  10. rk Says:

    mallikarjuna,
    welcome to RwB!

    Is this hype of 38 years …… real?

    “basavegowda knows better” would be a very diplomatic answer. but i would like to say that there is no hype as such. i can say this with authority since i have in my possession a 8-page letter written to sri basavegowda by none ther than sri s.r.puttanna kanagal. (don’t bother how i got that letter….. collectors have that knack).
    in that letter, puttanna explains in detail why ‘saavira mettilu’ had to be shelved. it seems, in 1967-8, ever since the shooting started, there was a tiff between the producers (maitri films) and puttanna. after shelving it, puttanna made classic movies and became very busy, thus having no time to resume ‘saavira mettilu’. it seems basavegowda persuaded puttanna many times to complete the film, but failed.
    yes, ravee has the rare distinction of having completed 2 of puttanna’s movies.
    of course, you are free to think there were better directors than puttanna kanagal. and none can deny the fact that the directors you have mentioned made kannada cinema richer by making wonderful films in their own style.
    cheers and keep visiting


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