Skip to main content

17 Reasons Why We Will Always Remember Shankar Nag


It has been 28 years since the untimely demise of actor Shankar Nag. S. Shivakumar reminisces about the actor and his vision for Indian cinema

This September 30th, marks 28th death anniversary of Shankar Nag. It can also be called as a black day for Karnataka and Kannada film industry. His contribution to Sandalwood is still remembered.

Shankar Nag, who started his career from Marathi theatre, shifted his base to Kannada film industry and made his on-screen debut with Girish Karnad's Ondanondu Kaaladalli. The movie was adapted from Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece, Seven Samurai, which fetched him a National Award at the Delhi International Film Festival. 

Early Life 

Shankar Nagarkatte was born on 9 November 1954 in Mallapura, Honnavara. His parents were Anandi and Sadanand Nagarkatte. Born into a Konkani-speaking family, his family settled in Shirali, a village near Bhatkal in Uttara Kannada of Karnataka State. He had an elder sister, Shyamala, and an elder brother, actor Ananth Nag. After completing formal education, Shankar moved to Mumbai. In Mumbai, he was attracted to Marathi theatre and immersed himself in theatrical activities. 

Nag then shifted base to Karnataka. His elder brother Anant had already established himself as an actor and urged Shankar to act in films. He was offered a role of a mercenary by Girish Karnad in the epic film Ondanondu Kaladalli (1978). He played Gandugali, a mercenary who earns a position in a rival army after he rescues a few wounded soldiers. Thus began his filmi career, where, in a span of 12 years (1978 to 1990) he has acted nearly in 80 Kannada movies. In 1980s, Shankar Nag was called as Mr Perfect in Kannada film industry. Apart from acting, he has also directed and produced many movies like Minchina Oota, Janma Janmada Anubandha, Geetha, Accident, Nodi Swamy Naavirode Heege and others. Though he had never undergone any martial arts training, he has earned the sobriquet as 'Karate King' Shankar Nag. 

Later Days

Shankar was an unconventional hero with an unshaven face, distinct swagger, dark eyes and had a rough voice. Commercial film producers took notice of Shankar Nag and he began acting in commercial films. Seetaramu was Shankar Nag's first commercial movie. His popular films include Auto Raja, Geeta, S.P. Sangliana, and Minchina Ota. He had also identified himself with the Janata Party in 1980s.

Meanwhile, after his formal education, Shankar Nag moved to Mumbai. Incidentally, he met his future partner Arundathi Nag in a drama rehearsal. The couple got married after six years and moved to Bangalore. They shared screen space in the movies like Nodi Swamy Naavirode Heege, Parasmeshi Premaprasanga and others.

Directorial Debut

Shankar Nag made his directorial debut with Minchina Oota, which had Ananth Nag in the lead cast. The movie also featured Loknath and Roopa Ganguly in the important roles. This won him seven state awards, including the best film. And then came a series of films directed by him. Janma Janmada Anubandha, Geetha, Accident, which won many state and national awards, Ondu Muttina Kathe with Rajkumar in the lead – loosely based on John Steinbeck's novel The Pearl, Nodi Swamy Navirodu Heege, which has music by the legendary composer G.K. Venkatesh, Lalach and Hosa Theerpu, a remake of Dushman – his only directorial remake. His film Accident has treated as a landmark and revolutionary in the Indian Cinema.

Malgudi Days 

Before globalization in 1991, Doordarshan was the only broadcast operator in India. It used to invite private producers to create television serials. Malgudi Days, an integral part of childhoods for people growing up in that era, was created and directed by Shankar Nag. The serial was based on the collection of short stories by R.K.Narayan. Malgudi Days has been rated as one of the finest serials ever to be made in the history of Indian Television. Well known actors like Vishnuvardhan, Ananth Nag, Arundathi Nag and Master Manjunath appeared in the serial.

Nag Brothers 

Shankar Nag made his directorial debut with Minchina Oota, which had Ananth Nag in the lead cast. Ananth Nag and Shankar Nag were also seen together in several movies like Taayi, Nodi Swamy Naavirode Heege, Parameshi Prema Prasanga, Janma Janmada Anubandha and Nagini.

Shankar Nag conceptualized Metro 30 Years Back

Believe us or not! In 1985, the director had conceptualized the idea of having a metro rail service in Bangalore. He did a survey of metro rail service in Tokyo, Toronto and Malaysia, before coming up with a blue print for his idea.

He had also conceptualized construction of house in 8 days

Shankar was doing a research on how to build durable house in a very short period of time. The man had plans of building a house in just 8 days. He took this idea to the CM Ramakrishna Hegde. Unfortunately, he died before the whole idea could be developed. This proves Shankar Nag was a great innovator.

He loved cars a lot

Apart from music, Shankar Nag was fond of cars too. He used to take great care of all the cars that he purchased and used to read a lot about cars. We can witness his fondness to cars as he made them as one of the characters in Geetha and Minchina Ota.

Car was his kitchen and library

Shankar was always a busy man and used to travel a lot for shooting. He used to do his breakfast, lunch and dinner inside his car. He used to store some books for reading in the car. He also had a typewriter inside his car so that he could finish typing his scripts while on the move.

Shankar left an offer from a bank for movies

Shankar Nag was offered a bank job when we was doing his studies in Mumbai. But, Shankar rejected it as he was required to sit behind the desk! Soon he joined theatre as an artist. There was no looking back for him since then.

Commercial success didn't matter to him

In an interview, “I’ve never tasted commercial success as a director. We’ve scraped through or lost a lot of money. You can’t attribute it to a single factor. We’ve been making slightly more intelligent films you can say. Try as we did, we could not stoop to making crude commercial films,” Shankar had explained.

He was disappointed with some people of the film industry.

Shankar was disappointed that people who earned fortunes from the film industry did not plough it back in. Shankar had sadly said, “It’s only in Karnataka that this has happened. Elsewhere in the south, film personalities have invested in technology.”

Shankar Nag And Dr Rajkumar 

In 1988, Shankar Nag directed Ondu Muthina Kathe, which had Dr Rajkumar and Archana in the lead roles. They also shared screen space in Apoorva Sangama, which was released in 1984. 

In an interview, he had confessed, he’d failed to break Raj Kumar’s image in ‘Ondu Muttina Kathe’. “People refused to accept him as an illiterate who could not count beyond four. They didn’t like his attire,” Shankar had said. But why try and tamper with the star system? “Well, you have to keep on making an effort. If I fall into the same rut and give him a typical role the cause would have been lost. I know the film has flopped but I’m satisfied that an effort was made,” he had said. He added that Raj was extremely co-operative.

Shankar Nag And Vishnuvardhan 

Shankar had also shared screen space with Dr Vishnuvardhan in the movies like Benki Birugaali and Karmika Kallanalla. Vishnu was also seen in Malgudi Days, which was directed by Shankar Nag.

Action And Suspense Thriller Movies 

Shakar Nag was amazing when it comes to Action and Suspense Thriller movies. He has a prominent list of hit movies with the above mentioned genre. Sangliyana, Sangliyana II and CBI Shankar, and suspense thriller movies like Tarka, Nigooda Rahasya and Idhu Saadhya had created a new wave in Indian film industry. 

We Miss You ‘Auto Raja’

Due to the popularity of his film ‘Autoraja’, his pictures can still be found on Auto rickshaws in Karnataka, even after 28 years of his death.

‘Ranga Shankara’

Ranga Shankara, a popular venue for theatre performances in Bangalore, was a brain child of Shankar Nag. It was a dream which was later fulfilled by his wife Arundhati Nag.



Shankar Nag died in a car accident near Davangere district, when he was on his way to Hubbali, on September 30, 1990. Shankar Nag was in a party in the country club on the night of his accident. He had planned to sleep that night and then go to Davangere the next day morning. However, he changed the plans and left with his family the same night in his car. Before leaving the party, his brother Anant Nag advised him to not leave for Davangere on the same night. He also adviced him to drive safely. But Shankar Nag was a man of his own will. Hence, he moved to Davangere on the the same night and unfortunately met with an accident. 

It's a belief among Kannadiga's that, if he had been alive he’d have definitely contributed to the quality, especially in Kannada cinema.

Here are some of rare photos of Shankar Nag sir. Crawl down to have a look at them all;