Kavi Samrat Viswanatha Satyanarayana – His Novel Ekaveera And Its Celluloid Version

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Many in cinema know films are inspired by literature and many filmmakers till the 1990s adapted successful novels and short stories into movies.  One such movie among the lot is Ekaveera, the celluloid adaptation of Kavi Samrat Viswanatha Satyanarayana’s bestselling novel Ekaveera, published in 1935.

The novel, set in the late 17th century Madurai, discusses a psychological mapping of relationships between men and women, with Ekaveera becoming the princess of the Madurai Nayak dynasty by marrying Kuttan Sethupathi, a great warrior prince of the Nayak dynasty.

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Dr. Viswanatha Satyanarayana weaves magic realism like never before.  We hear the inner voices of the main characters’ souls, while outwardly, they remain silent.

September 10th, 2019 marks the 124th birth anniversary of Dr. Viswanatha Satyanarayana and it is with gratitude we remember him and recall his indelible print on the world of Telugu literature and films.

Ekaveera chronicles the might of the Telugu Nayak empire and the people associated with it.  Veera Bhupathi, the chief accountant and friend of Kuttan Sethupathi, is the former lover of Ekaveera.  Bhupathi is married to Meenakshi, the daughter of an ayurvedic doctor and the former lover of Kuttan Sethupathi.

The novel was revisited and made into a movie by the initiative of N.T. Rama Rao, who was the prime disciple of Dr. Viswanatha Satyanarayana during his college days at the Machilipatnam National College.

Producer D.L. Narayana made the movie a reality by purchasing the rights from Dr. Viswanatha and made it as a multi starrer, with N.T. Rama Rao as Kuttan Sethupathi, K.R. Vijaya as Ekaveera, T.L. Kantha Rao as Veera Bhupathi and Jamuna as Meenakshi.

The movie paid tribute to the genius of Dr. Viswanatha Satyanarayana and his monumental contribution to the world of Telugu literature.  Director C.S. Rao saw to it the film remained true to the original novel, without deviating a bit from the details of the novel.

N.T. Rama Rao even declared openly the revenue generated by the movie would go to his guru Dr. Viswanatha Satyanarayana and the producers were happy with it.

Ekaveera released in 1969, with Dr. C. Narayana Reddy, another literary giant, penning the lyrics and dialogues.

The film had great music by K.V. Mahadevan and all the songs were hits.  However, when the movie released, it was dubbed as a ‘class’ movie with which the masses did not identify.  The movie recovered only a fraction of its investment. However, N.T. Rama Rao was a satisfied man as he got an opportunity to pay tribute to the man who redefined Telugu writing and who had a monumental corpus of work, including short stories, novels, essays and public speeches, to his credit.

Dr. Viswanatha Satyanarayana: The thousand headed genius

Dr. Satyanarayana was a trained grammarian, a linguist and a great literary giant who rediscovered Indian history and its heritage through his works, be it poetry or prose.

He was the first Telugu litterateur to win the highest literary award in India, the Jnanpith Award, for his magnum opus—a poetic retelling of the epic Ramayana, titled Ramayana Kalpavruksham (The Exalted Tree Called Ramayana.)

Dr. P.V. Narasimha Rao, himself a multi linguist, was an ardent admirer of Dr. Viswanatha and translated Dr. Satyanarayana’s most popular novel, Veyipadagalu, into Hindi as Sahasra Phan.

It may be noted the famed movie Narthanasala (1963,) which told the story of the one year exile of the Pandava princes in the court of Virata, was an adaptation of Dr. Viswanatha’s play Narthanasala.

This movie won the Best Second Film Award at the 9th National Film Awards in 1964 and was also screened at the Jakarta International Film Festival.

We pay homage to the great genius of Dr. Viswanatha Satyanarayana.


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