RNK Prasad: An Indian Cinema Legend

My beloved “Doddappa” (uncle), Shri. R.N.Krishna Prasad (RNK) – one of the greatest cinematographers Indian cinema has ever known – passed away on February 15, 2012, at the age of 82.

RNK was the 2nd of four sons of Shri. R.Nagendra Rao (RNR – who himself was considered the doyen and “Pitamaha” of the Kannada Film Industry) and the older brother of my father, Shri. R.N.Jayagopal, the 3rd RNR son, who passed away in May 2008 (the first son, R.N. Gururaj Prasad, was the only one of the four RNR sons who had a career outside of movies).

My father, R.N.Jayagopal (RNJ) looked up to his father (RNR) so much, that he not only wanted to achieve at least some of my grandfather’s fame and glory, but he also used to jokingly say that he wanted to at least live for as long as my grandfather did. RNR died at the age of 80, and my father died at the age of 73, thus falling 7 years short of his dream. But I’m happy that at least my uncle lived it up on my father’s behalf.

RNK was considered an authority in cinematography, and even wrote a book about it, which is required reading today in several Indian universities. He was born in Bengaluru, and graduated with a Diploma in Cinematography from Jayachamarajendra Polytechnic.

My grandfather RNR gave my father and RNK their first start in movies, in “Premadha Puthri”. RNK was the cameraman, my father penned the dialogues, screenplay and lyrics, and my grandfather RNR directed and starred in it. However, it wasn’t until “Vijayanagarada Veeraputra” that the entire family – RNR and his three sons RNK, RNJ and RNS – worked together.

RNK also cast his magic behind the camera for classics such as Belli Moda, Mareyada Haadu and Bhale Adrushtavo Adrushta. He received the President’s National Award for “Best Direction” for the movie “Naguva Hoovu”, for which he was also the cinematographer, and had R.N. Sudarshan both producing the movie and acting in the lead role along with his wife, Shailashree Sudarshan.

He was also loved and recognized in Tamil Nadu for the role he played in of Mani Rathnam’s “Nayakan” (as one of the 3 villainous “Reddy Brothers” – my father and RNS played the other 2 brothers in the movie), and also for playing Kamal Hassan’s lunatic father in the comedy, “Michael Madhana Kama Rajan”.

After having survived two heart attacks in the last few years, he used to say that maybe God was keeping him around for a reason. And that reason turned out to be the “Life Time Achievement” award bestowed on him by the Government of Karnataka in 2008-2009, which probably gave him some closure on life.

Having lived a glorious life, an illustrious career, with a loving family full of grandchildren who loved their grandpa, and a doting wife Usha Prasad who took amazing care of him till the very end, he finally decided to move on from this mortal life. And I have a feeling that he’s having a good time in heaven with my late parents R.N.Jayagopal and Lalita Jayagopal :-)

Indian cinema has lost yet another ir-replaceable legend, and I have lost my dearest, most beloved Doddappa.

He was the closest connection I had to my own father, and as long as he was around, I always felt like my father was still around too. But RNK’s passing hurts me on so many levels, that words cannot express the pain I feel as I write this.

So I just wanted to tell him this: I love you, Doddappa, and will always miss you, and your beautiful smile, and you will always continue to inspire me with the your passion and perfectionism and deep desire to be among the best at whatever you did. See you some day – until then, say hello to my parents, tell them that I miss them 24 times a day, and have a great time wherever you all are.

Your beloved nephew,

– Ravi Jayagopal, joined by Veena, Rhea & Rohan