It was just another lunch break on a sunny afternoon. The moment I entered home with my schoolbag slung around the shoulders, I saw my mother and sisters glued to the radio set. The fatal accident that killed Shankar Nag on the spot near Davanagere was on the national news bulletin. All were stunned. I struggled hard to hold back my tears, in vain.
Even now, a small poster of Shankar Nag on autos and roadsides evokes fond memories of the days he was scaling new heights with his movies and of course, Malgudi Days. The Nag brothers brought such loads of energy, talent and ambition to the Kannada film industry that hopes of a vibrant, creative future were wearing new colours.
Few would disagree if I say his directorial instincts were far more powerful than his acting skills. He had a keen eye for detail, he was creative, and he was hungry. His brother Ananth Nag—the only actor I still love to watch—teamed up with him and the duo belted out a string of decent movies. While Accident was his best, I feel “Ondu mutthina kathe” (The story of a pearl) did show how his talent was accepted by none other than Dr Rajkumar who didn’t mind appearing as a sun-ravaged, black-skinned fisherman. I don’t think the movie got the appreciation it deserved. It failed to arouse even Dr Raj fans apparently because the icon’s portrayal as a helpless poor fisherman was not at all appealing to them.
How did Shankar source his scripts? I presume he divined ideas from his voracious reading. In a radio interview, I remember Arundhati Nag saying how keenly Shankar used to read Pablo Neruda and Gabriel Garcia Marquez and many such writers that he carried the books to the toilet to avoid breaks.
And, it was also rooted in his restlessness that made him direct “Minchina Ota” at such a young age and also disappear like a mind-numbing lightning at the same speed!
He was just 35.