The year 1973 witnessed a milestone in the Kannada film industry. It saw the release of the 150th film of Kannada thespian late Dr Rajkumar and also the emergence of another star actor in Sandalwood — Dr Vishnuvardhan.
Vishnuvardhan’s Naagarahaavu, helmed by maverick director Puttanna Kanagal, was released in December 1972. It got a stupendous reception at the box office.
It also shattered several records at that time by running to packed houses for weeks and months until another cult classic movie hit the theatres the same year — Gandhada Gudi.
Directed by Vijay, Gandhada Gudi was released on 14 September 1973 and ran for over 25 weeks at the box office.
As Saturday, 23 September marks a glorious 50 years for the cult classic Gandhada Gudi, South First brings some of the memorable events that are associated with the iconic film, including the forever controversial “gun firing” incident that almost ruined late Dr Vishnuvardhan’s career.
Dr Rajkumar’s 150th film
Apart from being one of the first Kannada commercial movies that emphasises forest and wildlife conservation, the film is special for the diehard fans of the legendary Kannada actor Dr Rajkumar for another reason.
It marked the 150th film of the actor who had had an illustrious acting career till then since his first film in lead for the film Bedara Kannappa (1954) directed by HLN Simha.
He eventually went on to act in 206 films, all in lead roles and his last film was Shabdavedi released in 2000.
In fact, the year 1973 saw the release of not one or two but a total of six movies featuring the thespian in lead roles — Devaru Kotta Thangi, Bidugade, Swyavamvara, Doorada Betta, Mooroovare Vajra and the most commercially successful one of them all was Gandhada Gudi.
After having acted alongside Dr Rajkumar in multiple mythological films, actor MP Shankar —known for his well-built body and rugged looks along with great acting skills — co-produced his first ever Kannada film titled Kadina Rahasya (1969). It was directed by popular lyricist Geethapriya.
Shankar’s love for forests, especially wildlife was a well-known fact in the industry. He had penned the story for the film which he continued to do for his next biggest venture — Gandhada Gudi.
Along with Dr Rajkumar, the film featured Dr Vishnuvardhan, Balakrishna, Minugu Taare Kalpana, Advani Lakshmi Devi, Narasimha Raju, MP Shankar, Sampath, and Tiger Prabhakar.
Both the late Thoogudeepa Srinivas (father of present Kannada star actor Darshan) and the late Shakthi Prasad (father of Action king Arjun Sarja) played cameo roles in it.
Producer N Veeraswamy, who bankrolled Naagarahaavu, is believed to have recommended the name of Vishnuvardhan for the role of Rajkumar’s younger brother.
The plot is simple and effective. It revolves around Forest Range Officer Kumar (Rajkumar) whose mission is to curb the smugglers of forest valuables and wildlife poachers.
In fact, Anand (Vishnuvardhan) is Kumar’s long-lost brother and this is revealed only in the climax.
As a child, he gets kidnapped and raised by Raja Venkatappa Nayaka as a vengeance. The emotionally charged climax scenes join all the dots with Kumar performing his duty at all costs.
To enjoy the full movie which has great music, action, drama and brilliant performances, watch the film which is available on YouTube for free.
Meanwhile, the film is 19 reels long (one reel is roughly 10-12 minutes in duration).
The film is undoubtedly one of the most popular films in Kannada and also in Dr Rajkumar’s career.
However, the shooting incident on the sets resulted in two stalwarts of Kannada cinema never acting together in films, making Gandhada Gudi the only movie that featured both actors.
They both ended up acting in 200-plus movies in their decades-long illustrious career.
Though the exact circumstances that led to the accidental shooting of a real bullet from the gun on the sets were never known, there have been several versions of it.
However, it is widely believed and published version is that the prop gun that was being used to shoot the climax of the film was accidentally replaced by a real gun belonging to the real Kakanakote forest range officer Prabhakar.
Before the climax shoot of the film at Masaale Betta in the forest, the forest officer invited Dr Rajkumar and MP Shankar for lunch.
It is believed that this is where an assistant of producer Shankar accidentally took the real gun belonging to the officer to the shooting place where the climax was to be concluded.
Once the officer learned that his gun was missing and that it could have been mistakenly taken for the film shooting, he rushed to the shooting spot and averted the incident on time.
MP Shankar’s version
As per the producer’s version, Dr Vishnuvardhan was not in the scene but Balakrishna, who was playing the antagonist, was present.
In an interview, MP Shankar revealed that when Balakrishna told him that the gun was heavier, he (Shankar) asked his associate to get his lighter hammer gun. The producer reportedly checked his pockets and found all the four bullets in it. But after the scene, it got accidentally fired.
However, rumours and stories in multiple versions put Vishnuvardhan’s career in difficult times. He eventually moved to Chennai to return years later only after the then Karnataka Chief Minister Gundu Rao and politician Jeevaraj Alva convinced the actor to return to Bengaluru.
Sequel and remake
The popularity of the film resulted in a Hindi remake with the title Kartvaya (1979) that featured Dharmendra, Vinod Mehra and Rekha in the lead.
Telugu stalwart NTR was featured in titled Adavi Ramudu (1977) which was based on the Gandhada Gudi script. The Kannada film was even dubbed in Malayalam in 1974.
The film is also popular for its music, especially the number “Naavaduva Nudiye Kannada nudi, naaviruva taanave Gandhada Gudi” by playback singer PB Srinivas. It is one of the all-time favourites of Sandalwood fans.
The movie even saw the making of a sequel with the title Gandhada Gudi Part 2 (1995) starring Dr Shiva Rajkumar, son of the legendary actor by the same film team, with Dr Rajkumar playing a cameo in it.