An established Director, Dr. K Viswanath, created his own style in making movies. Critics and even the regular audience know what to expect from a typical Viswanath movie. It would be grounded in emotional social or family drama that would question the cynical practices of the society and has beautiful classical dance and memorable sound tracks with exceptional cinematography.
The classical dance and music usually take the forefront becoming the catalysts for the plot to progress. He carved out his own style both in terms of plot, style and narrative which is not difficult for a regular movie watcher to identify. He has the technical brilliance which comes out through the exceptional cinematography that adds a sombre feeling to the movie experience.
He has recurrent themes serving as his signatures which distinguish his movies from the others and bring the director’s personality, as most of us identify his movies not from the eyes of popular stars performing in his movie but look at them as Viswanath’s art work.
A Realist film maker makes movies that are as close to life as possible. While an Auteur is looked at as somebody who has carved a space for himself and posited his work in such a way that it eventually becomes his trademark. K. Viswanath strikes a fine balance of being both, by talking about middle class realities and social practices and also by creating ideal characters and situations that are too good to exist in reality.
He deals with contemporary subjects but creates ideal or sometimes imaginary situations and characters. Like a Realist he discusses the social realities for us but again contradicts himself by manipulating the situations and creating ideal ones, he wants to create a hope among the audience and look for “good” people around.
For example in his movie Swathimuthyam, he discusses the village life and the issue of widow remarriage but has the protagonist as somebody who suffers from autism and has no other intentions other than being and doing good to others.
Or in his recent attempt Swarabhishekam, he has a good-old musician who believes that classical music is a cure all for all the pains, performing a delivery of a woman by just singing. He might create a conflict in the movie but usually there is a resolution with a happy-ending, with good things always happening to the good characters.
Almost all his movies can actually be described as promoting the cherished values of “Indian culture” which according to him are being eroded by the “new-generation”. There are instances in his movies through which he repeatedly makes this point. His characters usually do not have shades of grey but are largely ideal, striving for the revival of Indian culture or fighting the social evils.
In Shankarabharanam, the protagonist is shown as somebody who respects Indian musical tradition and is waiting for its revival and does not lose hope but also maintains a standpoint saying if we ignore our roots and try building on something that is not ours we eventually become hollow.
Sagarasangamam, also has a protagonist who is a talented but ignored dancer with full belief that art never dies and succeeds in his attempts of teaching his arrogant student the values and the worth of the art form.
His films tackle the relevance and influence of Indian music, culture and art in modern era. He made a series of classic oriented movies showcasing the bliss of Indian art forms.
He conforms to the notion of high art being the “good Indian classical” and calls it the mother and the “popular art” as something that cannot matchup to it. Inspite of this evident bias we would like to watch his movies as we would want to feel nostalgic and appreciate the brilliance with which he handled the subject.
Viswanath attributed a divine poetic status to Telugu Cinema through his style by having philosophical discourses that would eventually enlighten the stubborn characters who would then go through a phase of reform. Close-up shots, minimal dialogues with deeper meanings and the character’s interaction with nature are mostly used to reveal these complex emotions.
During the time where women had a minimal role to play in the plot and were looked as mere objects of visual pleasure, he created strong women characters who would affect the plot in myriad ways. His lead roles were always rooted in middle-class societies and were interested in classical dance or music, if not, would eventually develop that interest like in Sagarasangamam or Swarnakamalam.
His love for women characters is also revealed when he compares nature with women in the movie Sirivennela, where a woman explains various seasons with her touch, to the protagonist who is blind. Jayaprada in Sagarasangamam, Suhasini in Sirivennela and Bhanupriya in Swarnakamalam are shown dancing in tune with the nature, to show the indispensible relationship that he finds between nature and women.
During the times where the fad was stardom, he created movies that brought audience to theatres not because of the stars but because they were K Viswanath movies. If film is looked at as an art form and Viswanath as an artist, he did create master pieces bearing his signature that stand out and speak for themselves.