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A composer signs off proudly

Nagendra: sad end

Nagendra, the man who gave Kannada cinema some of its happiest tunes, dies in misery, stubbornly independent, and a near pauper

November 4, 2000

Nagendra, who gave Kannada cinema some of its most memorable hits, died in hospital today. The man who, with brother Rajan, gave us flowing, rich scores, died a near pauper, with a bank balance of Rs 141 (a little more than three dollars). Their songs get the maximum requests on All India Radio, bringing in more royalties for recording companies than other composers.

Naa Ninna Mareyalaare, Gandhada Gudi, Eradu Kanasu -- these huge musical hits of the Kannada screen featured the music of Rajan-Nagendra. Their team was exceptionally good at composing cheerful love duets, although they did come up with a couple of sombre numbers like Baadi hoda balliyinda (P B Srinivas, Eradu Kanasu)

Rajan-Nagendra were in the same class as Hindi cinema's popular composing duo Laxmikanth Pyarelal. They had the same flair for composing technically flawless and violin-rich orchestral interludes, and enjoyed an equally long innings in the industry.

Nagendra was admitted to Bowring Hospital for treatment of hernia three months ago. He later developed complications because of his high blood pressure and diabetes. His wife, carrying lunch for him when he was recuperating, couldn't reach the hospital because of the September 28 bundh prompted by Rajkumar's kidnapping. His condition got worse and he suffered a stroke.

Rajan and Nagendra, sons of Rajappa, were born in Mysore. Their father had worked with live orchestras for silent films, and taught them some classical music. Rajan learnt the violin and Nagendra the jaltarang. They took advanced lessons from the highly regarded classical vocalist Bidaram Krishnappa.

The brothers worked for a while with H R Padmanabha Shastry in Madras, and returned to Mysore where they recorded regularly with P Kalinga Rao at All India Radio.

B Vittalacharya, maker of magic mythologicals, gave Nagendra a song to sing in Sri Srinivasa Kalyana (1952). The following year, the Rajan-Nagendra made its composing debut with Chanchala Kumari.

For someone who had composed hit music for 335 films, Nagendra was in deep financial distress. He reportedly told his wife that he preferred a general ward, and that she should not seek help from the government. Hai Bangalore, the mass circulation Kannada tabloid, alleged in an article two weeks ago that Rajan had cheated the fiercely self-respecting Nagendra of his share of whatever money they had earned together.

Some composers, playback singers and live band singers who make a living by singing Rajan-Nagendra songs visited him in hospital, but there were no signs that anyone had given him any money.

Nagendra leaves his wife, his mother and a 12-year-old son. When a reporter met her at hospital, she is quoted to have said that Rajan had always handled all the finances and cheated her husband of his fair share.

Nagendra sang a couple of songs in his five-decade-long career. The most popular was Yaaru yaaru nee yaaru for the comedian Narasimharaju. He also sang Nammoora santheli in the Anant Nag-Lakshmi starrer Gaalimaatu. Somehow his voice was typecast for comic scenes.

Rajan-Nagendra made delightful songs in the Rajkumar-Lakshmi starrer Naa Ninna Mareyalaare and Eradu Kanasu, which starred Rajkumar, Manjula and Kalpana.

Hombisilu, starring Vishnuvardhan, was another big hit. In the '80s, they made the music for some Telugu films, including Maa Intiyina Katha, Puli Bebbuli and Vayyari Bhamalu Vagalamari Bharathulu. They composed the music for about 35 Telugu films.

By the '90s, the team had got repetitive, and was given to copying the orchestral patterns of its earlier scores. Their tunes and interludes had become predictable.

Rajan-Nagendra also did a series of films starring Anant Nag, notable among them being Gaalimaatu, Benkiya Bale and Chandanada Gombe.

Some unforgettable Rajan-Nagendra numbers:

Baanallu neene bhuviyallu neene
Endendu ninnanu maretu
Tam nam tam nam nannee manasu midiyutide
Indu enage govinda
Naavaduva nudiye Kannada nudi
Naa ninna mareyalaare
Neera bittu nelada mele
Ee bhaavageete ninagaagi haadide

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