Guru Purnima special – An ode to 5 best on-screen teachers

Srivathsan Nadadhur

This Guru Purnima, looks at inspiring on-screen teachers who’ve made a strong impact in the lives of their students. Teachers are a selfless lot who do a lot to shape our thinking and decisions, but don’t get the credit they deserve. Though it’s a tough task, we have come up with five such teachers in various disciplines across many films, who deserve an ode and whom we wish we had in reality.

Rao Ramesh in Kotha Bangaru Lokam

Rao Ramesh as the physics lecturer in Kotha Bangaru Lokam proved that the teacher needn’t always only be the reverent figure, he can be a great friend and be one among his students too. From trying to resonate with the anxieties of a lovestruck teenager to helping him rise above rote learning and getting him to prioritise career over love in the need of the hour, this is a lecturer who gave a direction to the career of his students. He’s the one who encouraged his pupils to think beyond books, guiding them by stepping into their shoes without antagonising them. When the protagonist in the film loses his father, the lecturer transforms into a father-like figure in his life. This is the teacher we don’t see often but we all want to have!

M S Narayana in Pilla Zamindar

Uddhanam master, a Telugu lecturer played by M S Narayana is someone whom every student would have witnessed in their lives. He’s someone who invokes the passion for our mother tongue when we need it the most. He’s a figure who tells us to pronounce the Telugu letter ‘la’ in Malli right even on his death bed. He gives us tongue-twisters like ‘Viswaksenudi puthraratnam Taskaskambotlu’ whenever we feel we are the know-it-alls with respect to Telugu. In simple terms, he’s a disciplinarian who constantly reminds us of our glorious roots and how our thinking is rooted to our mother tongue.

J V Somayajulu in Sankarabharanam

Sankarabharanam Sankara Sastri is a music guru who literally breathes through the subject he teaches to his disciples. The seven notes of a musical scale can be experienced through the pillars of his household. The authoritarian may come across as a fierce and harsh personality initially and also takes time to decide if a student is worth passing his knowledge to. However, once he decides about a disciple in his mind and considers him worthy, the river of knowledge keeps flowing. He corrects his students even as he sleeps and knows when and where to pass his legacy to the right disciple. He doesn’t expect any monetary gain out of it, his main aim is to pass his knowledge to the deserving, across generations.

Girish Karnad in Anandabhairavi

Bhagavathula Venkata Rama Sarma in Anandabhairavi is a dance guru who doesn’t mind going against the norms to pass on the knowledge to his pupils. He is someone who doesn’t see gender or caste as a barrier for learning, even in times when teaching dance to women wasn’t prevalent across the populace and he’s looked down among the people belonging to his own caste for doing so. He challenges conventions to protect his students and leaves no stone unturned to continue traditions, while also being ostracised by the art fraternity and the so-called torch bearers of culture. Though he can be adamant about things, he does it only in the best interest of the art form.

Kamal Haasan in Professor Viswam

Viswam is a history professor who doesn’t command respect, he rather earns it with his modern and equally progressive approach to education. He is a terrific communicator and warrants the attention of the student effortlessly. He truly believes that a frank conversation needs to exist between both sexes to ensure an egalitarian society. He takes a dig at the teachers themselves for not adapting with the times and college managements for not questioning and siding with illustrious families who pay huge donations. When there’s a student body election, he’s someone who tells his students to paint the walls than fill them with pamphlets pleading for votes. If a student with stammering issues talks to him about his lack of self-esteem, Viswam is someone who gives him confidence and an opportunity to speak in front of thousands on the annual day. He’s an authority of his own, but he’s extremely approachable – a fine balance between a parental figure and a friend.

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