It was 1972 when Siddalingiah, the director of blockbusters Doorada Betta and Bangarada Manushya, was with his then-to-be producer Varadappa. They were in a hotel, disturbed and discouraged, sipping coffee. They had just returned from the house of Goruru Ramaswamy, the acclaimed writer.
After his two successful films (mentioned above), Siddalingiah was not completely satisfied. The legend has it that the people around him attributed the success of his films to Rajkumar, the star in both the films. He was visibly upset. He thought he had to prove his ability as a director.
A 12-Page Story
It was during this time that he stumbled upon the book – Vayyara, a compilation of stories by Gorou Ramaswamy. He was fascinated by a story of 12 pages – ‘Bhootayyana Maga Ayyu’. He saw the potential of adapting it into a movie. Very soon, he along with his producer, Varadappa, landed at Goruru’s residence with a proposal; to buy the rights of Bhootayyana Maga Ayyu.
What happened next wasn’t expected by both Goruru and Siddalingiah!
Goruru Ramaswamy was pleasantly surprised to see the director of two successful films at his doorstep. When Siddalingiah put forth his proposal, Goruru politely rejected it by saying, ‘How can anyone possibly make a movie out of this story! Even if you do, you will incur a loss. Please throw this idea out of your head’.
The coffee glasses became empty. Both Varadappa and Siddalingiah looked at each other and decided to meet Goruru again. This time around, Siddalingiah explained the potential of the story and how it can be converted into celluloid.
After listening patiently to this explanation, Goruru smiled at them and said,
‘All this while I was thinking about your welfare. If you still want to pursue it, I don’t have any objections’.
Finally, there he was, bagging the rights of a story he wanted to tell. A story, he thought, would prove his caliber. He alone converted a 12-page story into a screenplay. He got his dear friend, Hunasur Krishnamurthy, to write dialogues. Chi Udayshankar and RN Jayagopal were confirmed to pen the lyrics.
First Kannada color film to be completely shot in outdoors
As intended earlier, instead of a star, Siddalingiah signed Lokesh, a popular theatre artist by then, as Ayya, Vishnuvardhan, yet not as popular as he turned out to be, as Gulla and MP Shankar as Bhootayya. Shot extensively at Kalasapur, Dharmasthala, and Talakadu, Bhootayyana Maga Ayyu became the first Kannada color film to be completely shot in outdoors.
The movie, released on February 2nd, 1974, received a huge reception despite having a non-popular star cast. It went onto complete 100 days in three theatres in Bangalore alone.
With a budget of not more than 12 lakhs, it grossed over 45 lakhs at the box office.
Thus, a landmark Kannada film, Bhootayyana Maga Ayyu, became the turning point for its actors and by this, Siddalingiah succeeded in proving that his success is irrespective of any star. Little did he know that four decades later, the film continues to be appreciated and loved even more than the time of its release.