Ganapathi Venkatrama Iyer (known as G. V. Iyer) was a well known Indian film director and actor. He was nicknamed "Kannada Bheeshma", and was the only person who made movies in Sanskrit. His films were well-known for their spiritual themes. He was born in 1917 in Nanjanagud in Mysore district of Karnataka state in South India. His most critically acclaimed film was Bhagawad Gita (1993), which won the National Film Award for Best Film and was nominated for Best Film at the Bogotá Film Festival.
He started his career at the age of eight when he joined the Gubbi Veeranna theatre group. His first role as an actor in cinema was in the film Radharamana. Besides this he acted in a number of other movies such as Mahakavi Kalidasa, Sodhari, Hemavati, Hari Bhaktha and Bedara Kannapa. He soon started directing his own movies. The movie Hamsageethe (music by Dr. Balamuralikrishna, B. V. Karanth and T.G. Lingappa) was extremely well received and made him famous. Iyer wrote scripts, lyrics and produced and directed many commercial Kannada movies. Iyer’s biggest effort was Ranadheera Kanteerava. He continued making commercial movies until 1970.
He was proficient in both Kannada and Sanskrit and was soon to make the first movie in Sanskrit, about the famous philosopher Adi Shankara (1983). The movie received the National Film Awards for Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Audiography and has been known as a master piece. It is believed that the movie made a great impact on Iyer. It was remarked that he stopped wearing footwear after making the movie.
He later went on to make a movie on Madhvacharya in Kannada and Ramanujacharya in Tamil. He also made a remarkable Sanskrit movie Bhagawad Gita (1993), which won Best Film at the National Film Awards of 1993. The film was also nominated for Best Film at the Bogotá Film Festival.
He also produced a television series Natyarani Shanthala, a historical, on the Hoysala Jain queen Shanthala, who was married to a Vaishnava King. It was re-made in Hindi as well as in Kannada. It was based on several works by Samethanahalli Rama Rao in Kannada.
He later went on to make a movie on Vivekananda. It was an attempt to portray Swami Vivekananda, realistically. Though it had many famous actors such as Mithun Chakraborty, Hema Malini and Sarvadaman Banerjee, the movie failed to become a commercial success.