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Film poster
Directed by Puttanna Kanagal
Produced by N. Veeraswamy
Written by T. R. Subba Rao
Screenplay by Puttanna Kanagal
Based on Nagarahavu,
Ondu Gandu Eradu Hennu and Sarpa Mathsara
by T. R. Subba Rao
Starring Vishnuvardhan
K. S. Ashwath
Music by Vijaya Bhaskar
Cinematography Chittibabu
Edited by P. Bhakthavathsalam
Sri Eshwari Productions
Release date
  • 1973 (1973)
Running time
169 minutes
Country India
Language Kannada

Naagarahaavu (English: Cobra) is a 1973 Indian Kannada language film directed by Puttanna Kanagal, based on T. R. Subba Rao's three novels Nagarahavu, Ondu Gandu Eradu Hennu and Sarpa Mathsara, and starring Vishnuvardhan, K. S. Ashwath, Aarathi and Shubha in lead roles. The supporting cast features Leelavathi, Ambareesh, Shivaram, Dheerendra Gopal, Lokanath and Vajramuni. This is the first Kannada movie to complete 100 days in three centres.

The film was a huge success and paved way for the stardom of Vishnuvardhan and Ambarish who eventually morphed as leading actors in Kannada cinema.[1] This was Vishnuvardhan's first movie as the lead. Over a period of time, the character roles of Leelavathi, Dheerendra Gopal, Loknath, M. N. Lakshmi Devi have come in for their share of applause.

The film primarily revolves around the protagonist's relationship with his teacher, Chamayya(K. S. Ashwath). Chamayya, who is childless treats Ramachari(Vishnuvardhan) as his son. He takes it upon himself to guide Ramachari on the right path despite Ramachari's legendary anger. He usually acts as the negotiator between his student and the people who have issues with Ramachari's behaviour. Ramachari is a young man whose anger is his weakness. He is difficult to reason with and has a great deal of pride. Chamayya is the only person who can convince him to do anything. His love interests are Alamelu( Aarathi) and Margaret (Shubha) who play pivotal parts in his life.

The conversations between the Guru (Chamayya) and Shishya (Ramachari) is the highlight of movie all through. Chamayya and Ramachari have differences of opinion over what is right and wrong. Chamayya is more willing to blend in with the society than Ramachari and this usually ends in an arugument between the two. It is possible that the society is the silent rhetoric for the title of the movie which spreads venom - a cobra.

The movie was remade in Hindi as Zehreela Insaan in Tamil as Raaja Naagam and in Telugu as Kode Nagu .

Plot details[edit]

The story revolves around a short tempered, yet affable college student named Ramachari. Ramachari is unpopular in the whole town of Chitradurga as an ill-tempered boy and is disliked by many people in his college.

First few years of Ramachari in College[edit]

The story begins with Ramachari being caught in a classroom while trying to copy in an examination. The college principal (Loknath) suspends him for copying in the exam. Ramachari is humiliated and angry at this action and later at night Ramachari throws stones at the principal's house and when the principal wakes up and comes out of his house, Ramachari ties the half-naked principal to a pole and runs away satisfied.

Then the plot focuses on Ramachari's home. Ramachari is brought up in a pious and religious Brahmin environment by his parents Madhwacharya and Sonabai. His father doesn't like him because he is unpopular in the whole town as a ruffian. His mother is worried about his future. One person who truly (seems to) understand Ramachari is his primary school teacher, Chamayya (K.S.Ashwath) master. Ramachari finds the company of his primary school teacher Chamayya and his wife Tunga (Leelavathi), more interesting than that of his parents and considers them as his parents. Ramachari has very great regards for his Chamayya master even though he is no longer his academic teacher and would do whatever his teacher would say without thinking.

The next part of the story is about the two women Almelu (Aarathi) and Margaret (Shubha) who come into Ramachari's life and how the teacher Chamayya influences Ramachari's decisions in these relationships. The teacher tries to bring Ramachari in the "conventional way of life", but he errs and Ramachari's life is destroyed.


In college, Ramachari hangs out with Varada (Shivaram) and other friends. Varada has a very beautiful sister named Almelu. Almelu's beauty has maddened a neighbourhood hooligan, Jaleela (Ambareesh) who keeps stalking her. Varada wants to put an end to this eve-teasing but he is a timid, pusillanimous person. He asks Ramachari for help. Ramachari agrees based on the condition that he should marry Almelu. Ramachari is tempted and he fixes Jaleela and drives him away out of Almelu's life. Almelu and Ramachari fall in love.

At this point, when Almelu and Ramachari are truly in love, Almelu's marriage is fixed with a boy of her caste. When Almelu tries to refuse the proposal by saying she is in love with Ramachari and asks for Varada's support, Varada says that he never gave Ramachari any promise and deceives Ramachari.

At this point, the teacher Chamayya intervenes in Ramachari's life and says to give up hope on Almelu. He convinces Ramachari by making him understand that sacrifice is a greater act than selfish love.

Ramachari, confused, agrees to his teacher and sacrifices his love.

Years later, Ramachari meets her in a five star hotel as a prostitute. Almelu's husband sold her into flesh trade and she had turned into a prostitute.


The second lady in Ramachari's life is Margaret, a peppy Christian girl who has moved into the town who has young men like Tukaram (Dheerendra Gopal) swaying to her tunes. Ramachari kisses Margaret on an ego tassle between the two and they soon fall in love. However, due to the intense pressure in the society which denounces the marriage between a Brahmin boy and a Christian girl, they decide to run away. Once again the teacher Chamayya tries to stop Ramachari and says that by sacrificing his love for Margaret, he will be holding his religion and tradition before love. But this time, Ramachari confronts his teacher and says that he won't budge because the last time he sacrificed his love for Almelu, it went horribly wrong and Almelu was a high society prostitute. Chamayya master, accused now of ruining Almelu's life, realizes (perhaps for the first time) that Ramachari was right and he was wrong.


The movie ends with Chamayya master falling to his death from the hill when Ramachari pushes him in a fit of rage after his master tells him, "if you want to marry her, you have to witness my death before it." He will not have any motive to kill his master,but it shows his respect for his master since he doesn't want to hear about his master's death. Ramachari, shocked by this incident asks Margaret to join him in a bid to accompany his beloved teacher in death, to which she happily agrees. They both commit suicide by jumping off a cliff.

Ramachari, the hero is compared to a King Cobra. Dangerous, yet respected but a misfit in the society.



The music of the film was composed by Vijaya Bhaskar with lyrics penned by Vijaya Narasimha, Chi. Udaya Shankar and R. N. Jayagopal.

Track List[edit]

No. Title Lyrics Singer(s) Length
1. "Haavina Dwesha" Vijaya Narasimha S. P. Balasubramanyam  
2. "Kannada Naadina" Chi. Udaya Shankar P. B. Srinivas  
3. "Karpoorada Bombe" R. N. Jayagopal P. Susheela  
4. "Baare Baare" Vijaya Narasimha P. B. Srinivas  
5. "Sangama Sangama" Vijaya Narasimha P. B. Srinivas, P. Susheela  
6. "Kathe Heluve" Chi. Udaya Shankar P. Susheela  


Filmfare Award South 1973

  • Best Film Kannada
  • Special award - Acting - Vishnu Vardhan

Karnataka State Film Awards 1972-73

  • Second Best Film
  • Best Actor – Vishnuvardhan
  • Best Actress – Aarathi
  • Best Supporting Actor – K S Ashwath
  • Best Supporting Actress – Shubha
  • Best Story Writer – Tha Ra Su
  • Best Screenplay – S R Puttanna Kanagal
  • Best Dialogue Writer – Chi Udayashankar


After watching the film, T. R. Subba Rao remarked that Puttanna Kanagal has turned Naagarahaavu (the cobra) into 'Kerehaavu' (meaning rat snake). The implied meaning is that the characterisation of Ramachari in the novel and the movie is strikingly different and less effective. Nevertheless, Naagarahaavu is an all-time favorite movie and remains popular in all its reruns.[1]


  • This film was remade in Hindi titled as Zehreela Insaan, directed by Puttanna Kanagal himself.
  • The film was remade in Tamil as Raaja Naagam with Sreekanth playing the lead role.
  • This film was remade into Telugu titled Kode Nagu starring Sobhan Babu, Chandrakala and Lakshmi and noted lyricist Acharya Athreya. This was directed by K. S. Prakash Rao.


  • Baare Baare song was fully shot in slow-motion, two decades before Mansoor Khan would shoot "Pehlaa Nashaa" in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar.
  • T. R. Subba Rao had written his novel naagarahaavu, based on painter Madhugiri Ramu & his teacher Shaamayya. Ramu was a gifted painter, whose paintings have adorned the North Gate of Mysore Palace.[2]
  • T. R. Subba Rao initially did not like the film version which was based on his 3 novels and criticized it.[3]
  • It is the first Kannada movie where the entire story without any sub-plots was based on three novels.
  • It is the first Kannada movie starring a debutant hero which got remade in three languages.


  1. The Complete Index to World Film Since 1895

External links[edit]