'I couldn't work with Satyajit Ray, but I had K Vishwanath,' Jaya Prada pays an emotional tribute to K Vishwanath
Jaya Prada, who starred in some of Vishwanath’s most distinguished works, recalls his contribution to her life and career as indescribable. 'I cannot tell you what Vishwanathji meant to my life and career.'
The most formidable doyen of Telugu cinema K Vishwanath passed away on 2 February. A master storyteller with an impeccable sense of drama and music, Vishwanath was to Telugu cinema what Satyajit Ray is to Bengali cinema.
It was Ray who had described Jaya Prada as one of the most beautiful faces that he had ever seen. It was K Vishwanath who proved Ray right.
Suffused in sorrow for losing her mentor, Jaya Prada, who did her finest work with K Vishwanath says, “He was my guru, my mentor. Everything I know about acting I learnt from him. I felt the same respect and love for him that I felt for my parents. Every time I was in Hyderabad I would visit his home with gifts for him and his family, just like one does for one’s parents.”
Jaya Prada, who starred in some of Vishwanath’s most distinguished works, recalls his contribution to her life and career as indescribable. “I cannot tell you what Vishwanathji meant to my life and career. When he offered me Siri Siri Muva ,which was later made in Hindi into Sargam I knew nothing about cinema let alone about how a mute girl that I played, behaved. When he narrated the screenplay I didn’t understand anything. I followed Vishwanath Sir blindly into the role, and he guided me with the love affection and care of a father showing his child how to take her first baby steps. Later when Siri Siru Muva was remade into Hindi, Vishwanathji convinced the producer N C Sippy to cast me in the role.”
This level of confidence that Vishwanath displayed in Jaya Prada both scared and gratified her. “On the one hand ,I was immensely pleased that he had so much faith in my abilities. On the other hand I was also frightened and nervous. Sargam was relocated to a different culture and location. The music was very different from the original. Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s songs like Dafli wale and Koyal boli in Sargam are popular to this day. Sargam launched me as a heroine in Hindi cinema. I couldn’t have hoped for a better launch.”
After Sargam, Jaya Prada did Kaamchor and Sanjog in Hindi with Vishwanath. “They were completely different from Sargam. There was no dancing at all in these two films. Although it was a comedy, in Kaamchor I played a very powerful role of a woman who teaches her husband his responsibilities. Again, Sanjog was a very powerful mother-daughter drama with very strong emotions.”
By far the best known and most acclaimed product of the K Vishwanath-Jaya Prada collaboration is Sur Sangam. Jaya Prada gets emotional speaking about it. “When the original Sankarabharanam was made in Telugu I was very upset about not being case in it. (Manju Bhargavi played the role in the original). I was lucky that Vishwanath Sir decided to remake the film in Hindi. For Sur Sangam I learnt Kathak for the song Jaaon torey charan kamal balihari. I was a good Kuchipudi and Bharat Natyam dancer prior to Sur Sangam. But I owe my skills in Kathak to Vishwanath Sir. In fact I owe my entire career to him. Whatever I am today as an actor and a human being is because of him. The sense of loss that I feel cannot be described in words.”
Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based journalist. He has been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out.
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