Viswanath has received international recognition for his works, and is known for blending parallel cinema with mainstream commercial cinema. Viswanath was honored with the "Prize of the Public" at the "Besancon Film Festival of France" in the year 1981. His directorial works which are produced by Poornodaya Movie Creations were dubbed into Russian language and theatrically released in Moscow. In 1992, he received the Andhra Pradesh state Raghupathi Venkaiah Award, and the civilian honor Padma Shri for his contribution to the field of arts. He was awarded the 2017 Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the highest award in Indian cinema, at the 64th National Film Awards.
Kasinathuni Vishwanath was born on 19 Feb 1930 in a Telugu speaking family to Kasinathuni Subramaniam and Kasinathuni Saraswati (Saraswatamma). His ancestral roots come from Pedapulivarru, Andhra Pradesh, a small village on the banks of River Krishna. Kasinathuni is his family name, Vishwanath is his given name. Kasinathuni studied Intermediate from Guntur Hindu College, and holds a B.Sc degree from Andhra Christian College of Acharya Nagarjuna University. He began his career as a sound recordist at Vauhini Studios in Madras where his father was an associate. Kasinathuni transitioned into film direction at Annapurna Pictures under Adurthi Subba Rao and K. Ramnoth. He wished to work as an assistant to director K. Balachander and Bapu.
During his early career, Viswanath was associated with Adurthi Subba Rao on National Award winning films such as Mooga Manasulu (1964), and Doctor Chakravarthy (1964). Viswanath scripted Sudigundalu (1968), and directed works such as Aatma Gowravam (1965), O Seeta Katha (1974), and Jeevana Jyothi (1975) which garnered the state Nandi Awards, and were screened at the Asian and African film Festival at Tashkent.
Viswanath's classical blockbusters Sankarabharanam (1979) and Sagara Sangamam (1983) were included among CNN-IBN's list of hundred greatest Indian films of all time. His directorial works Sankarabharanam and Saptapadi, have garnered the National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment and Best Feature Film on National Integration, respectively. Sankarabharanam, was premiered at the 8th International Film Festival of India, the Tashkent Film Festival, and the Moscow International Film Festival held in May 1980. Viswanath also won the Prize of the Public at the Besancon Film Festival of France in the year 1981.
Viswanath's Swati Mutyam was India's official entry to the 59th Academy Awards. Swati Mutyam", Sagara Sangamam and Sirivennela were premiered at the Asia Pacific Film Festival. Swayam Krushi was premiered to special mention at the Moscow International Film Festival. Sankarabharanam, Sagara Sangamam, Shrutilayalu, Swarnakamalam and Swati Kiranam were screened in the Indian Panorama section at International Film Festival of India, Ann Arbor Film Festival. and AISFM Film Festival.
In 1965, Viswanath debuted as a director with Telugu film Aatma Gowravam, which won the Nandi Award for Best Feature Film of the year. Viswanath followed it up with drama film's Chelleli Kapuram, Sarada, O Seeta Katha and Jeevana Jyoti which are women-centric films. It was in Siri Siri Muvva that the artistic touch in his craft first became visible.
Sankarabharanam highlights the neglect of traditional Indian music under the increasing influence of western music.The film brings out the grandeur of Carnatic music, the traditional South Indian music towards the end. Bhaskaran, a media and film researcher from Chennai has documented, in his study of South Indian music culture, how Sankarabharanam contributed to the revival of Carnatic music in a big way. The film broke many commercial records by running for over one year in cinemas. In a recent study published in Journal of Dance, Movements & Spiritualities published by "Intellect Group" of the United Kingdom, C. S. H. N. Murthy, a media and film studies scholar from India, has demonstrated how Viswanath's filmography embraces a wide spectrum of characters that include mentally and physically challenged subjects as well like the film Sarada exploits a psychologically deranged woman, Swati Mutyam, exploits an autistic man's humanism, Sirivennela revels in situations between deaf and dumb characters, and Kalam Marindi dwells on characters stuck in a caste based society.
Viswanath's filmography is known for addressing the issues of caste, color, disability, alcoholism, and socio-economic differences through liberal arts in works such as Saptapadi, Sirivennela, Swayamkrushi, Shrutilayalu, and Swarnakamalam. The researcher, C. S. H. N. Murthy observed that Viswanath's films offer a pathway towards inclusiveness, affecting positive spiritual change at both personal and social levels. Situating the content in the broad arena of de-westernizing media studies, through immersive and culturally embedded perspectives, Murthy endeavoured to offer modern and postmodern dimensions in Viswanath's films.
Films with social issues
Viswanath has made many films dealing with a wide range of human and social issues: Saptapadi, Sirivennela, Sutradharulu, Subhalekha, Shrutilayalu, Subhasankalpam, Aapadbandhavudu, Swayam krushi, and Swarnakamalam have lead characters representing different strata of society, meticulously etched to suit the larger picture.
In Saptapadi, he decries the evils of untouchability and the caste system. In Subhodayam and Swayam Krushi he emphasizes the dignity and respectability of manual labor. In Subhalekha, he deals, in a humorous way, with the dowry system-one of the major evils in today's society. While Sutradharulu urges present-day society to recognize the need to adopt the ideals of non-violence, Swati Kiranam depicts the harm that can be caused by the basic instincts of envy and anger in a man, however accomplished he may be.
In spite of the nature of these subjects, they are presented in a subtle manner with an imaginative story line, with just the right amount of emphasis on the intended message. Yet Viswanath's films were never offbeat cinema but wholesome entertainers those elevated the lead actors' image. He is a director with social-conscious mind and who believes cinema can bring out desirable changes in society if presented in a format liked by a cross section of audience.
Edida Nageswara Rao founded "Poornodaya Movie Creations" which encouraged Viswanath to make aesthetic films. Poornodaya has produced several of Viswanath's films like Sankarabharanam, Swatimutyam, Saagarasangamam, Sutradharulu, and Aapadbandhavudu. Most of these films were dubbed into Russian and were screened at the Moscow Film Festival.
Viswanath has also directed Hindi language films such as Sargam (1979), Kaamchor (1982), Shubh Kaamna (1983), Jaag Utha Insan (1984), Sur Sangam (1985), Sanjog (1985), Eeshwar (1989), Sangeet (1992) and Dhanwaan (1993). Some of these films have been super hits at the box office.
In 1995, Viswanath debuted as an actor with Telugu film Subha Sankalpam. As a character actor, he has appeared in works such as Vajram (1995), Kalisundam Raa (2000), Narasimha Naidu (2001), Nuvvu Leka Nenu Lenu (2002), Santosham (2002), Seema Simham (2002), Tagore (2003), Lakshmi Narasimha (2004), Swarabhishekam (2004), Aadavari Matalaku Arthale Verule (2007), Athadu (2005), and Pandurangadu (2008), and Devasthanam (2012). He essayed characters in Tamil works such as Kuruthipunal (1995), Mugavaree (1999), Kakkai Siraginilae (2000), Bagavathi (2002), Pudhiya Geethai (2003), Yaaradi Nee Mohini (2008), Rajapattai (2011), Lingaa (2014), and Uttama Villain (2015).
Viswanath had also acted on a few television serials; Siva Narayna Teertha on SVBC TV, Chellamey on Sun TV, and Suryavamsam on Vendhar TV. He also endorses brands such as GRT Jewellers and appears in various television commercials.
Kasinathuni is married to Kasinathuni Jayalakshmi and they have three children: Padmavati, Kasinathuni Nagendranath and Kasinathuni Ravindranath and six grandchildren. He speaks fluent Telugu, Tamil, and English. Kasinathuni is a devout, practicing Shaivite Hindu who is a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati, who is known as the Universal Mother, Lord Vinayaka and Lord Kumaraswamy. He frequently reads the Bhagavad Gita and follows the spiritual teachings of Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi. Actor Chandra Mohan and singer S. P. Balasubrahmanyam are Kasinathuni's cousins.Civilian honorPadma Shri (1992), Government of IndiaInternational honors1981 - Prize of the Public at the Besancon Film Festival of France1982-87 - Special Mention - Moscow International Film Festival2014 - Gulf Andhra Award for Life Time Achievement in Cinema - U.A.E.National Film Awards2017 - Dadasaheb Phalke Award for life time achievement in cinema.1980 – National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment – Sankarabharanam1982 – Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration – Saptapadi1987 – Best Feature Film in Telugu – Swati Mutyam1990 – Best Feature Film in Telugu – Sutradharulu2005 – Best Feature Film in Telugu – SwarabhishekamNandi Awards1981: Nandi Award for Best Screenplay Writer - Saptapadi1986: Nandi Award for Best Director - Swati Mutyam1987: Nandi Award for Best Director - Shruti Layalu1992: Raghupathi Venkaiah Award – Lifetime achievement1995: Nandi Award for Best Character Actor - Subha Sankalpam2000: Nandi Award for Best Supporting Actor - Kalisundam RaaCinema Express Awards1988: Cinema Express Award for Best Director - SwarnakamalamCineMAA AwardsCineMAA Award for life time achievement - (2008)Filmfare Awards1989: Filmfare Best Story Award – EeshwarFilmfare Awards South1974: Filmfare Award for Best Direction – O Seeta Katha1975: Best Director – Jeevana Jyoti1982: Best Director – Subhalekha1983: Best Director – Saagara Sangamam1986: Best Director – Swati Mutyam1987: Best Director – Sruthilayalu1992: Best Director – Aapadbandhavudu1994: Lifetime Achievement1995: Best Director – Subha SankalpamHonorary doctoratePotti Sreeramulu Telugu UniversityViswa Vikhyata Darsaka SarvabhowmaChittor V. Nagaiah Puraskaram