Veteran South Indian actor and filmmaker K Viswanath passed away late on Thursday night at the age of 92. He was the winner of India’s highest cinematic honour, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award.
Viswanath, who is well known for his work in Telugu movies, had reportedly been suffering from age-related illnesses for some time. He passed away while receiving treatment at a private hospital in Hyderabad.
He was born in Andhra Pradesh in 1930. He started his film career as a sound engineer before making his directorial debut with the 1965 drama Aatma Gowravam, which took home the Best Feature Film prize at the Telugu film industry’s annual Nandi Awards.
After a string of movies with strong female leads, Viswanath’s 1976 Telugu film Siri Siri Muvva would go on to gain him widespread praise. The drama, which tells the story of a mute woman who escapes stepmother abuse by dancing, was recreated in Hindi as Sargam in 1979. It made Jaya Prada, the main actress who appeared in both the Telugu and the Hindi films, into a well-known Bollywood star.
Many people in India regard Viswanath’s 1980 musical play Sankarabharanam, which won him several international accolades, as a classic. With a focus on a classical music artist whose life and relationship are threatened by shifting conventions, it addresses the issue of generational difference.
The film was remade in Hindi as Sur Sangam in 1985, which was also a big hit.
Viswanath gained a reputation as a filmmaker for tackling societal concerns, such as the caste system and disabilities. He received appreciation for his ability to balance the box office requirements of commercial movies with subjects often found in art-house films.
Beginning with the 1995 Telugu movie Subha Sankalpam, he also ventured in acting. His most recent appearance was in the 2015 Tamil comedy drama Uttama Villain.
Throughout his career, Viswanath received numerous honours, including five National Film Awards for his works. In 1992, he received a Padma Shri, the fourth-highest civilian honour in India.
For his contributions to the film business, he was given India’s highest movie accolade, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, in 2016.
The biggest South Indian celebrities paid him respect on friday.
Oscar-winning composer A R Rahman also posted a tribute. “Your movies filled my childhood with humaneness and wonder,” he said.