I knew Narasimha Murthy, more popularly known as Master Hirannaiah, for more than sixty years. A multi-faceted personality, his death is a great personal loss to me and equally in the field of drama and society at large. He was our family friend from the time he came to study in Sarada Vilas College.
He was two years junior to me in the same college and was my sister H.R. Leelavathi’s classmate in junior intermediate college during 1950-51. He had to discontinue studies as his father died and the responsibility of looking after the family fell on him.
After my retirement, I settled down in Mysuru and we used to keep in regular touch. He was a very affectionate friend calling me by my first name Satya.
He had participated in many dramas from his company which he took over after his father, also a legendary actor, K. Hirannaiah’s demise. He is remembered for his riveting acting in ‘Lanchavatara’ which the audience lapped up with relish. The specialty of his acting was basically it was a one-man show exposing the corruption in society and particularly concerning politicians.
But what I am writing about is the case of one drama while he was still a student in the college. In this drama he played the part of Ashvathama. The drama was ‘Agraha’ written by V. Seetharamaiah. It was very unique in the sense that all other actors were his teachers, namely, Gopalakrishna Adiga, V. Nagaraja Rao, C.S. Nagaraja, who were also my teachers.
I still remember one scene that transfixed the audience in which he plucks the gem from his forehead and walks to and fro as one possessed. He had also played a lady’s part in dramas. Since our house was just behind the college he used to come to our house almost daily to drink water.
There are so many memories about him that come to my mind, but I would like to mention two of them. The first one concerns his marriage which he relates during an interview that was hilarious and also spoke about the fact that he never uttered a lie. He tells his prospective father-in-law that he had indulged in all sorts of vices in society. Despite this, he decides to give his daughter in marriage to Hirannaiah. When people around told his father-in-law the huge mistake he was doing by giving his daughter in marriage, his simple answer was that he was an honest man and the fact that he has sunk so low in society the only way now left is to rise up and what he said proved prophetic seeing the greatness he achieved in his life.
The second instance: When I attended some years ago a function in which he was called to address the students of Sadvidya Institutions, Mysuru. As usual it was a very captivating lecture and what struck me was the final advice he gave to students. He said he was conscious and he appreciates that the students are absorbing from many technological advances that have come from the western culture and concepts but he ended his talk with folded hands to students and requesting, ‘whatever you emulate from other cultures, please do not send your parents to old-age homes.’
– H.R. Bapu Satyanarayana, Saraswathipuram, 5.5.2019
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