BIFFes 2024 | Remembering the prolific Vijaya Bhaskar

The illustrious 15th edition of the Bengaluru International Film Festival turned a keen eye on the legacy of a musical maestro who once graced the Indian film industry with his harmonious melodies. Reflecting on the life and achievements of the renowned music composer Vijaya Bhaskar, attendees found themselves enthralled by a surprising anecdote – the artist, celebrated for his sartorial elegance, was often juxtaposed with none other than the “King of Hollywood”, Clark Gable.

The festival’s discussion session dedicated to commemorating Vijaya Bhaskar’s centenary year, witnessed his elder daughter Shankari Ananth recounting this lesser-known connection, much to the intrigue of the audience. Accompanied by her sister Mangala Gowri and seasoned journalist, author, and music composer S.R. Ramakrishna, the conversation unveiled the personal and professional realms of the composer’s life that painted a portrait of dedication, versatility, and simplicity.

Vijaya Bhaskar’s oeuvre is staggering – his compositions grace over 700 movies, leaving an indelible mark on the Indian film industry. Having been honored with seven Karnataka State Film Awards and two Rajyotsava Awards, his work resonates with timelessness, forming an integral part of Kannada cinema’s musical heritage. Shankari Ananth reminisced about their father’s deep commitment, revealing how he would immerse himself in his work for hours on end. Despite their longing for his company during their childhood, his daughters now take immense pride in his musical legacy.

His younger daughter, Mangala Gowri, offered a glimpse into the personal life of Vijaya Bhaskar, recollecting cherished memories by the beach in Chennai. Vijaya Bhaskar, a man of simple pleasures, imparted lessons of financial prudence and the courage to follow one’s heart to his children.

Detailing the breadth of Vijaya Bhaskar’s work, S.R. Ramakrishna noted his unmatched ability to craft hauntingly simple yet profoundly expressive melodies. He highlighted the composer’s penchant for Western music, with anecdotes of his trips from Malleshwaram to MG Road in pursuit of it. Furthermore, Vijaya Bhaskar’s affinity for Hindustani music and his endeavor to master the piano underlined his ceaseless quest for musical knowledge.

Tracing the inception of his influential career, Ramakrishna pinpointed the film ‘Santha Thukaram’ (1963) starring Dr. Rajkumar, as a turning point. The song ‘Jayathu Jayavitala’ stands out as an early testament to his musical brilliance. The 1970s marked Vijaya Bhaskar’s zenith, a period often regarded as the golden era of Kannada film music. His collaboration with Puttanna Kanagal, particularly for ‘Nagarahaavu’ (1972), produced not only entrancing music but also compositions that echoed the intense emotions and rebellious nature of the film’s protagonist Ramachari, portrayed by Dr. Vishnuvardhan.

Ramakrishna also spotlighted Vijaya Bhaskar’s involvement with arthouse cinema stalwarts like Adoor Gopalakrishnan and P. Lankesh. Describing him as a man of prodigious talent, Ramakrishna emphasized Vijaya Bhaskar’s command of challenging instruments, which propelled him to prominence in an era preceding the convenience of multi-track recording systems.

The conversation at the Bengaluru International Film Festival rendered a fitting tribute to a musical savant whose melodies continue to resonate across generations. Vijaya Bhaskar’s life and works remain a treasure trove of cultural richness, a beacon of inspiration for artists aspiring to etch their name in the annals of film history. His daughters and those influenced by his legacy, left the audience with a vivid image of a man whose music wove the fabric of filmic storytelling, and whose spirit, like the notes he composed, would never fade from memory.

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