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P. Sheshadri’s Journey of Cinema | Episode 1 – Birth, Growth and Education

If one carefully observes
the Kannada Film Industry and the parallel cinema movement Pattabhirama Reddy’s ‘Samskara’ and
‘Shringara Masa’ were achievements. Then came the works
of Girish Kasaravalli and the heights to which he grew. Later, in the parallel movement
of the Indian film industry and the Kannada film industry another notable figure who has
attained such heights is you. There must have been many
factors which shaped you. Your career is worthy of
being studied by others. So I’ll begin by… asking about your childhood
and the family you grew up in. Please tell us about your
birth and childhood. MY BIRTH, GROWTH, AND EDUCATION… I was born in Tumkur district.
In Dandinashivara. I was curious from the beginning
to know why the place was called so. I was told it was a place where
the army (Dandu) was stationed. My father was a
primary school teacher. His name was Pattabhiramaiah.
My mother’s name was Kamalamma. They had four children. I was born on November 23rd, 1963. I was born in a village
next to Dandinashivara. A play was being staged
on the day I was born. In Bayalu Seeme (flat lands),
the area I’m from, it’s calledGejjepooje.Gejjepoojeis nothing
but a full-length rehearsal. I don’t remember the name of the play but I was born during its preparations
and the play got cancelled, I’m told. An elderly relative used to travel
giving Harikatha performances. He was a teacher but
he would still do this. Another elder relative did woodworking. He wasn’t a carpenter. Our family is a lineage of priests. He had become an expert
in making ploughs. It was believed that
his ploughs tilled the land well. After I entered films, my father
would remind me of all this. That perhaps I had all this in me. I believed it too, but after listening
to what Shivaram Karanth had said that only diabetes is
hereditary and nothing else… Then I realised that creativity
doesn’t come through genes. That’s my ancestry. We had settled in Dandinashivara
by the time I was a child. My birth place was just 5 km away. As a result, my education from the
1st standard started in Dandinashivara. I shifted to English medium
from the 8th standard to a place called Ammasandra
about 3 to 4 kilometres away. I went there. I completed my
S.S.L.C. and P.U.C. there. He stubbornly refused to
attend the high school here. There were high schools here too. “I won’t go there. Send me
to an English-medium one.” The reason he wanted
to go there was because in out family we couldn’t
afford pants or shoes. His father told him to
wear shorts to school. “What more do you need? That’s enough. “If I get pants only for you,
what about the others? “Did I get pants for
your older brother? “I haven’t got it for anyone else. “Why should I get pants
and shoes only for you? “You can wear shorts to school.” He did not relent, and went to school. Then his older siblings supported him to to join the convent. Then we admitted him to
an English-medium school. After that I got a Master of Arts
degree from Mysore University. This is my education background. I failed my S.S.L.C. There was a reason for my failing. The design of wedding invitations
has changed now. Now they feature Ganesha prominently. But back then there would be
Shiva, Parvathi, Rama, Seetha. Those pictures were so beautiful. The cards were a little
bigger than a palm. I would carefully cut
those pictures out. I had a scissor to make those cutouts. I still have that scissor. I’ll tell you where I
got that scissor from. The earnings my father
made from being a teacher was not enough to
suffice his livelihood. We were four children. So when he was done with his teaching,
as a part-time job in the evenings he would do tailoring. Mostly for the neighbours. It wasn’t a huge business. They were
small jobs for the people around. If people pressured him then he
would work during the festivals too. He would use a scissor. I would take it and use it for cutting
when he was at school. It’s another matter that
I’d be scolded for making it blunt. So, I would make these
cutouts and stick them. My father would be impressed seeing it
because those cuts were very small. Like those fingers and
toes of the figures. It was very hard to cut Rama’s bow. The bow would be like a tiny stick. I think my interest in art was born
from delicately cutting those figures. I don’t know for sure,
but it was probably that. He’d praise me for that. “Look at my son, he’s cut
the pictures so well. “he’s a good artist,” he’d say. That deluded me into thinking
that I was indeed an artist. He’d draw pictures more
than he studied. On all the walls! Whatever he knew,
he’d draw it on the walls. If he found some paints he’d draw
like he was making a rangoli. I don’t think art
came to me hereditarily. It was a developed skill. We assimilate what we like
in different stages of our life. I was interested in that. My love for it grew and I began
aspiring to achieve something in art. There was a well-known artist
called MTV Acharya. People called him
“Chandamama Acharya”. There was an advertisement that said
“Learn art for 25 rupees.” I thought if I could become an artist
for just 25 rupees, why shouldn’t I? I somehow collected the 25 rupees and made a money order
without my father’s knowledge. A prospectus came a week later. From that prospectus I came
to know the cost was ₹ 1,500! The 25 rupees was for the prospectus. Then I felt disappointed. Because at that time
when I was in S.S.L.C. my family could not afford to spend
₹1500 for me to learn art. But I was the youngest son. Among four children.
Three brothers and a sister. I was the youngest. And since I was almost always
bought what I wanted I had some courage. I wore shoes for the first time
in 8th standard to attend a convent. I did not go to a convent
out of a desire to learn English. It was so that I could go to school
wearing ironed clothes, a tie and shoes. Until then we had seen days
where we didn’t even wear slippers. It was out of that desire
that I had joined a convent. Thinking that since they agreed to that,
they might agree to this as well I asked my father, cried, fasted
for a few days and finally somehow I joined that correspondence course
for ₹30 per month. I’d draw pictures. I’d make people sit and make portraits. Even today whenever possible
I make good portraits. I would do sketches. I was adept at making
pencil and pen sketches. My older brother was already
doing his Master’s degree. Novels would be assigned as
textbooks in his curriculum. Like how “Bettada Jeeva” has become
a textbook at so many universities. It was at a time when short stories,
long stories were assigned as textbooks. He’d get these novels from the library
and read them as part of his course. That made it possible for me to read
the works of Kuvempu, Karanth and other important authors. Even though our place had a library
those kind of books weren’t available. So I’d read these books that he’d bring.
At that time itself. My reading started because of him. Then I read others. Like N. Narasimaiah.
He came into my life afterwards. These people were the ones
who entered it first. Kuvempu and Karanth. I still remember reading
Mirji Annaraya’s “Nisarga”. I have a desire to adapt it as a film.
Maybe it might happen one day. Even “Mookajjiiya Kanasugalu”. It was a time when it
won the Jnanapith. It won the Jnanapith Award
when I was in S.S.L.C. I read Masthi’s
“Chikkaveera Rajendra”. I had read all these then itself. As I kept reading my
love for literature grew. One one side art was pulling me.
on the other there was literature. I didn’t write much. I was
more interested in reading. Now I think that these two aspects
helped me enter this field. Back then I didn’t even dream of it. Let alone films, I didn’t even
imagine coming to Bangalore. It was a big deal to even
come to Bangalore. I thought I’d maybe become
a primary school teacher like my father or at best
a high school teacher. That’s what I thought. I had an interest in
becoming an artist. I thought maybe I’d become
a drawing teacher. I didn’t have a clear idea
of what I wanted to become. So in that way literature and art
went hand in hand in my journey. My father was upset regarding me. He had an interest in making me an
engineer and wanted me to study that. Finally my father thought “okay so
he’s not showing interest in studies. “but he’s my son, he’s born to me,
he needs to have something to do in life “how will he live?” And it was the kind of concern
any parent would have. So what he did he got some ₹32-33,000
when he retired. This was in 1983. ’82 or ’83. He put all that money into land and planted coconuts. He dug a well. I saw all that happen up close. He told me to take water from
the well and water the coconut plants. He had arranged a servant to help me. He’d tell him “water the plants.” “Go check on the plants in the farm.” “Go and give breakfast to
the servant.” “Give him lunch.” My husband is short-tempered. They tried to control him
and in response I literally ran away and came
to Bangalore one day. In 1985.
– Without informing anybody? No, no. I had told them.
But they didn’t agree to it. By then I had started to
write for periodicals. My background with literature helped. I would write letter to the editor when I
was younger about temples in disrepair. About street lamps that wouldn’t work.
Or about the nuisance of street dogs. About some robbery or some injustices. Or about the sacrifices that
were given during festivals. I would write these kinds of
articles to newspapers continuously. A few of my stories/novel were
being serialized in Tumkur dailies. I was under the delusion
that I became an author. I had even written a novel at the time. The novel was serialised
in Tumkur Times everyday. I’d write and bring each chapter
every morning by train. It was an evening paper.
They’d print it. Then I’d go to my village. I’d write
more and come back again in the morning. I did this for three-four
months traveling by train. That novel is still there, but it
was my intital attempts at writing.

One Reply to “P. Sheshadri’s Journey of Cinema | Episode 1 – Birth, Growth and Education”

  • Sri P Sheshadri one of the best director of Karnataka and India….I watched his movies….they all are Gems……rare gems……love from Davangere….. Karnataka.

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