Rajkumar Film Names In Essays
This article is about the Kannada actor. For other people with the same name, see Rajkumar.
Singanalluru Puttaswamayya Muthuraju (24 April 1929 – 12 April 2006), known mononymously by his screen name Rajkumar and nicknamed Annavru, was an Indian actor and singer in the Kannada Cinema. Widely acclaimed as one of the finest actors in the history of Indian Cinema, he is considered a cultural icon, and holds a matinée idol status in the Kannada diaspora, among whom he is popularly adulated as Devataa Manushya (Godman), Bangarada Manushya (Golden Man), Karnataka Rathna (Jewel of Karnataka State), Vara Nata (Gifted Actor), Rajanna (Brother Raj), Nata Saarvabhouma (Emperor of Actors),Gaana Gandharva (Singer in the Court of Gods), Annavru (Beloved Elder Brother), Rasikara Raja (King of connoisseurs), Vishwa Maanava (Universal Man) and much more.
A method actor, Rajkumar entered the film industry after his long stint as a dramatist with Gubbi Veeranna's Gubbi Drama Company, which he joined at the age of eight, and got his first break as a lead in the year 1954 film Bedara Kannappa, and went on to work in over 220 films, in the year 2000 super hit Shabdavedhi being the last acted movie. Well known for his highly disciplined and simple lifestyle in both personal and professional fronts, Rajkumar was also an avid Yoga, Pranayama and Carnatic music performer. He is also credited for being the only Indian Super Star who stayed away from acting the vicious acts of drinking, smoking and uttering swear words in all the roles he performed in his long spanning career of close to 50 years. At age 71, he was kidnapped from his farm house at Gajanur by Veerappan. He was released after 108 days. He died of cardiac arrest at his residence in Bangalore on 12 April 2006 at the age of 77.
In his film career, Rajkumar received eleven Karnataka State Film Awards, ten South Filmfare Awards, two National Film Awards and a National Film Award for Best Playback Singer for song "Naadamaya" . He received the NTR National Award in 2002. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Mysore, and is a recipient of the Padma Bhushan in 1983 and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1995 for the lifetime contribution to Indian Cinema.
Rajkumar was born on 24 April 1929 in Gajanur, Tamil Nadu. His father, Puttaswamayya and mother, Lakshmamma were impoverished theatre artists from Singanallur,present day Tamil Nadu. His father was good at playing roles like Kamsa, Ravana and Hiranyakashipu. He left his school when he was 8, who was later discovered by film producers and played tiny roles till he was 25 then he played his first lead in a feature film. Originally, he was named Mutturaja, after the Muthaththii Raya (a name for the Hindu deity Hanuman), which is a temple deity located in Muthathi, a settlement on the banks of river Kaveri in present-day Karnataka.
Before acting in what would become his first film as a lead, Bedara Kannappa, he appeared in Sri Srinivasa Kalyana in 1952, as one of the seven Saptarishi (sages). It was an insignificant role, he remembered the scene was over before he recognized himself in the scene.
Rajkumar started his career with his father in a troupe led by Gubbi Veeranna. In 1953, he was spotted by film director H. L. N. Simha who was on lookout for well-built, pleasant-faced Bedara Kannappa. Simha eventually signed him for the film and christened him "Rajkumar".
He acted only in Kannada apart from Sri Kalahastiswara Mahatyam in Telugu, a remake of Bedara Kannappa. He acted in 206 movies, excluding his guest appearance. He owned production company called Vajreshwari Production under banner Dakshayani Combines. Bhaagyada Baagilu was his 100th film,Devataa Manushya was 200th film, and Shabdavedhi was last film.
His character depictions ranged from love to double and triple roles', from action and mythological characters to portrayals of contemporary social causes in spanning over five decades. Rajkumar along with his contemporaries Udaya Kumar and Kalyan Kumar were "Kumara Thrayaru" of the Kannada cinema. He acted in 36 films with Udaya Kumar and in 5 films with Kalyan Kumar. The films presented a populist version of Karnataka's history, focusing on the southern kingdoms from the Vijayanagara Empire and later to the intrigue and mystery of the Mysore royalty.
He made historical movies like Ranadheera Kanteerava, Kaviratna Kalidasa. He made movies from Kannada novels and made movies against perceived social evils like Shabdavedhi on drug abuse. He acted with heroines of southern cinema such as Jayanti (36 films),Pandaribai (18 films), Leelavathi (28 films), Bharati (28 films), Kalpana (19 films), Aarathi (13 films), B. Saroja Devi (10 films), Harini (11 films), Krishna Kumari (8 films), Madhavi (6 films), Manjula (7 films), Jayamala (6 films), Lakshmi (5 films), Geetha (5 films), Saritha (5 films), Jayaprada (4 films).Bollywood actress Rekha made her debut in Operation Jackpotnalli CID 999 with him. He acted for south Indian directors from B.R. Pantulu and Puttanna Kanagal to Shankar Nag and T. S. Nagabharana. Chi. Udaya Shankar has written dialogues and songs for his 85 movies.
Rajkumar is the first Indian artist to enact a role of James Bond in Jedara Bale. Later, in Operation Jackpotnalli CID 999, Goadalli CID 999, and Operation Diamond Racket where he played roles chronicling the adventures of Prakash aka Agent CID 999, a James Bondesque superspy. Much of these films was made from the directors pair of Dorai and Bhagwan who began making spy flicks relatively later in their career, including Operation Diamond Racket.
Rajkumar sang for many Kannada movies. He won the National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer in 1992 for the song "Naadamaya" from the movie Jeevana Chaitra. A classical song in Thodi Raga.
He was trained Indian classical music in Gubbi Veeranna's drama troupe.. He performed a song in Mahishasura Mardini (this was picturised on actor Narasimharaju). However, he did not become a full-fledged singer till his song "Yare Koogadali" from Sampathige Sawal in 1974. Prior to this, Rajkumar's songs were mostly sung by P. B. Srinivas. After which, he sang in most of his movies and in many private albums, which were mainly devotional albums. His song renditions ranged from pure classical to disco and fast numbers to pathos. His fans of the days of black-and-white movies in the 1960s and 1970s, believe he was actually P. B. Srinivas, who did the playback singing for most of Rajkumar's movies, until Rajkumar himself started to sing. P. B. Srinivas continued singing for him in many of the movies in which Rajkumar starred in multiple roles.
His songs about Kannadigas, Kannada language and culture, such as "Jenina Holeyo" from Chalisuva Modagalu, "Maanavanagi Huttidmele" from Jeevana chaitra and "Huttidare Kannada Naadal Huttabeku" from the film Aakasmika. He sang a complete English song called "If You Come Today" ("Tick Tick Tick") in one of his Bond films – Operation Diamond Racket in 1978. This song became an internet meme in India following Rajkumar's demise in 2006.
In later years, he lent his voice to few actors and sang background solos. For the song Kannappa Kottanu, from Muddina Maava he provided playback to S. P. Balasubrahmanyam. This was a rare occasion. He sang Kalidasashlokas like "Maanikya Veena" and ghazal based songs like "Sadaa Kannale", "Kanneera Dhaare" and "Yaava Kaviyu". In addition he sang devotional songs of Hanuman and Raghavendra.
Main article: Rajkumar filmography
Kannada language movement
Main article: Gokak agitation
Although Rajkumar rejected numerous offers to don the political mantle, he was able to influence the State's political fortunes without ever being officially in politics. However, his apolitical outlook did not prevent him from protecting and espousing the cause of Kannada and Karnataka. He had time and again advocated the cause of seeking primacy to Kannada, and hence was asked to lead a movement about making Kannada a compulsory language for primary education based on the "Gokak report," popularly known as Gokak varadhi. He became actively involved in the movement and soon became the force behind the Gokak movement. He took a rally from Belagavi to Bangalore and gave speeches about the importance of Kannada. Millions of people gathered only to have a glimpse of Rajkumar and listen to his speech. The movement became such a rage that the government relented and made Kannada a compulsory language of education in Karnataka.
Rajkumar was best regarded for being a highly disciplined man in both his personal and professional lives. He practised Carnatic music for an hour each in the morning and in the evening. His punctuality is another noted aspect. Waking up every morning at 4 am, he performed Yoga and Pranayama, which is said to be the reason behind his physical and mental fitness. His Yoga performances can be seen in the first clips of his film Kaamana Billu. Rajkumar is the first actor of the world cinema who had mastered Yoga.
He was the epitome of good character in most of his films. He shunned smoking and drinking both on screen and off. To avoid setting a precedent among his fans, he made sure that the roles he accepted did not require him to smoke or drink or utter swear words, and extended this decision to real life. His dress code always consisted of simple white dhoti and shirt. He spent most of his vacations in his hometown, Gajanur, near the forest area where he was later abducted.
He estimated producers as "Anna Daataru" (food providers) and adored fans as "Abhimaani Devarugalu"(Fan Gods).
He was a devotee of Raghavendra Swami.
Rajkumar married (Raja Gourava) Parvathamma, with her he had 5 children (two daughters and three sons). Two of his sons – Shiva Rajkumar and Puneet Rajkumar – have become actors in the Kannada film industry. His other son Raghavendra Rajkumar is an actor-turned-producer. And grandson (Raja Kusha) Vinay Rajkumar made his debut in 2015 movie Siddhartha. His two daughters are Lakshmi and Poornima.
On 30 July 2000, Rajkumar, his son-in-law Govindaraju, and two others were abducted by Veerappan from the actor's palatial house at Gajanur ( Erode district of Tamil Nadu). Veerappan demanded the release of his gang members who were being held in jail under a defunct anti-terrorism law. The event prompted a massive manhunt and threw the Karnataka government into crisis. The Supreme Court of India opined that it was "unpardonable" on the part of the Government of Tamil Nadu for not providing security to Rajkumar, although they had information a year earlier that he faced a threat of being kidnapped by Veerappan. The Special Task Force (STF) set up to capture Veerapan had earlier warned Rajkumar against visiting the farmhouse, but his son Raghavendra Rajkumar later acknowledged that his father had not taken the threat seriously.
After a total of 108 days in captivity, Rajkumar was released unharmed on 15 November 2000. His abduction and the manner in which his release was secured are a mystery.
According to the Outlook magazine, there are many uncomfortable questions on the role played by the granite lobby in the whole kidnap and release of Dr. Raj. The granite mafia had links with Veerappan in the MM Hills region, and souring ties between them is said to have led to the abduction of Dr. Raj. Added to this mystery was the supposed links of Dr. Raj's son Appu with the granite lobby. According to officers of the Department of Mines and Geology, Karnataka, Puneet's name came up in 1995, when a raid was done on illegal quarries by the Kanakapura Police. Then the Minister for Mines and Geology M D Jayaram, of the H D Deve Gowda government had announced in the Karnataka Assembly, that Puneet was one of the many people who were raided. According to a Congress MLA, the matter was hushed up due to pressure exerted by the influential family. According to sources, Puneet owed the granite lobby 30–40 lakhs. These allegations were however denied by Appu.
Rajkumar died at his home in Sadashivanagar, Bangalore on 12 April 2006 following a cardiac arrest, while after his death his eyes were donated.
The government then announced for its intention to make a memorial to Rajkumar at Kanteerava Studios at the cost ₹ 100 million. Later people as a tribute placed more than 50 statues which are spread across Bangalore.
Riots following death
His death precipitated a statewide reaction. Following the news of his death, there was major unrest in the city of Bangalore. The then Chief Minister, H. D. Kumaraswamy, later claimed that the violence was instigated by vested political interests. However the opposition blamed it on lack of timely arrangements by responsible organisations. An unofficial bandh (closure of all shops and other establishments) was announced. More than 1000 vehicles were burnt and eight people were killed in police firing. Several people attempted suicide after hearing of Rajkumar's death; most of them were rescued. Around two million people followed his remains. Some of the unrest was caught on film during the "Outsourcing" episode of the Morgan Spurlock show 30 Days.
His death sparked large violence in Bangalore, with violent fans resorting to stone throwing and arson. The suburbs mainly affected were Bellary Road, Magadi Road, Sadashivanagar, and the Kanteerava Indoor Stadium. The violence led to nearly 25 police personnel being injured, OB vans of private Media channels and reporters being attacked, petrol bunk near Hudson Circle being burnt, etc. Stones and bottles were thrown on building and vehicles by the grieving fans. In order to prevent attacks, vehicle drivers put up posters of Rajkumar on their windscreens. The violence resulted in the death of 8 people, including a policeman, Manjunath Malladi (28 years old) who was lynched to death by the unruly mob. Hundreds of vehicles were damaged, including 20 police vehicles. About $40m losses were reported by software companies, as they had to shut down operations. The Bangalore Police arrested nearly 742 people for rioting, with most being identified from news footage and video clippings. Further the violence and police action resulted in more than 100 people being injured, which included many police personnel. 3 Petrol bunks were set on fire, 4 cinema halls burnt, 25 trucks parked in the Devraj Urs Terminal were destroyed. The Yeshwanthpur police station and the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police (North) office, which were located on the funeral procession path were completely ransacked with Police vehicles set on fire. The body which was kept at the Kanteerava Stadium for public viewing was moved at 12.30pm to the Kanteerava Film Studios for final rites, and the fans who had been waiting in line to pay respects and were denied a chance resorted to violence. The funeral procession itself was marred with violence, with fans trying to forcibly barge in.
The funeral procession covered K.R. Circle, Palace Road, T. Chowdiah Road, Cauvery Theatre Junction, Sadashivnagar, Yeshwantapur and Goraguntepalya, before reaching Kanteerva Studios. The fans stopped the cortege, and was allowed to proceed further after much pleading by Rajkumar's sons. As a result of the violence, the CM H D Kumaraswamy and then Deputy CM Yediyurappa could not make it for the final rites.Parvathamma Rajkumar was also anguished as she was unable to see her husband's body for the last time because of the chaos.
The book Bangarada Manushya, the chronicle of Rajkumar, is written by A. N. Prahlada Rao and was first released in 2005 in the presence of Rajkumar himself and ran into four editions. Baraguru Ramachandrappa called him as "Bevarina Manushya" (Successful man became by his hardwork and dedication). Besides recording his biography, it also explores his role of a singing star, and includes photographs from his films and other achievements.
The book has been translated into English by literary critic C.N. Ramachandran and journalist Alladi Jayashri and is titled as "Dr. Rajkumar: The Inimitable Actor With A Golden Voice" and released by the actor's wife Parvathamma Rajkumar in May 2008 at Bangalore. To mark the completion of 75 years of Kannada film industry, the book was released in New Jersey, United States on 10 May 2008.
Another book "Prana Padaka" written by A.N.Prahlada Rao, about Rajakumar, the Kannada Matnee idol. The book contains some of the exciting incidents as recalled by Smt. Parvathamma Rajakumar. The book was released on 7 October 2013 by Vijayakumar, President, Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce and K.S.L.Swamy, the senior Kannada Film Director and Producer.
Awards and honours
Rajkumar was awarded numerous State,National & International awards. He was a recipient of the Padma Bhushan, a doctorate from Mysore University, and the Karnataka Ratna, the highest civilian honour of the State of Karnataka, recognising him as a "Jewel of Karnataka State".In 1985, he was honored by a famous Kentucky colonel award by the then-governor of Kentucky, United States. By this he became the only Indian actor to receive this prestigious from the Kentucky state, United States of America. In 1995 he received the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award for his outstanding contributions to the Kannada film industry. In 2011, during the 83rd birth anniversary of Rajkumar, the Chief Minister of Karnataka announced that the state government is recommending Rajkumar for a Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award of the country for his outstanding contribution to the film industry.
National Film Awards
Filmfare Awards South
Rajkumar holds the record of winning ten South Filmfare Awards in the Best Actor category in Kannada cinema. Some of the films for which he received Best Actor awards include:
Total of 10 filmfare awards for best actor category.
Karnataka State Film Awards
- Rajkumar has won 13 Karnataka State Film Awards (9 for best actor, 2 for best singer, 1 lifetime achievement)
Other Awards and Honours
On July 2005, government of Karnataka captioned by N. Dharam Singh, the Chief Minister of Karnataka conducted a felicitation ceremony for honoring Rajkumar for his (50 years of) services to Karnataka at Bangalore Palace named Sarthaka Suvarna (Meaningful 50 years). This ceremony was attended by the entire Kannada film industry marking respect and tribute to the legend, and could be called as an official celebration of Golden Jubilee of Rajkumar's works and services to Kannada film industry.
At Kanteerava Studios, the Karnataka Government is setting up a memorial for Rajkumar at an estimated cost of ₹100 million. The blueprint of the memorial was constituted by a panel comprising Rajkumar's family members, representatives of the Kannada film industry and the state government.
A permanent exhibition on the history of Rajkumar's movies is also an integral part of this memorial. In respect of Rajkumar's prolonged association with the studio, the actor's trophies and souvenirs will be put up for exhibition at the memorial. It will also have a stock of movies, dialogue, scripts, songs and other memorabilia associated with the actor. The studio, located in Nandini Layout in the northern part of Bangalore, has become a pilgrim and tourist spot since Rajkumar's death, with thousands of fans coming to pay homage to his memory. A calendar is released every year containing rare memorial photographs of Rajkumar and stills from his films. Dr Rajkumar Memorial was inaugurated on 29 November in presence of Rajinikanth, Chiranjeevi.
- 1 2 . Hindustan Times (18 April 2006).
- ↑ "Economic and Political Weekly – Rajkumar and Kannada Nationalism"(PDF). Bangalorenotes.com. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
- ↑ ಡಾ.ರಾಜ್ಕುಮಾರ್ Dr. Raj Kumar Memorial Website. Rajkumarmemorial.com (12 April 2006).
- ↑ "Dr Raj pays last tribute to Vajramuni". Indiaglitz. 6 January 2006. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
- ↑ Katakam, Anupama (8 December 2000). "The eternal Kannada icon". Frontline. Bangalore.
- 1 2 3 4 5 Sharma, Ravi (5 May 2006). "Pride of Kannada". Frontline. Bangalore.
- 1 2 3 "Nata Saarvabhouma Dr Rajkumar no more". Deccan Herald. 12 April 2006.
- 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Rajkumar, Beloved Indian Film Star, Dies at 77". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
- 1 2 "Padmabushana Dr. Rajkumar – The name will have a mesmerizing effect on several lacks of Kannadigas who have grown with the aura and magical presence of Rajkumar in the field of Kannada Cinema and Culture. – Online Bangalore (Bengaluru)". Online Bangalore. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
- 1 2 Times of India – Total recall of 109 days of kidnap drama. The Times of India.indiatimes.com (29 July 2001).
- 1 2 Deccan Herald News Service – Eight deaths and a funeral. Deccan Herald. (14 April 2006).
- 1 2 "40th National Film Festival"(PDF). dff.nic.in. Directorate of Film Festivals. pp. 49–50. Retrieved 18 September 2011.
- 1 2 3 "Dr Raj kumar awards - NewKannada.Com". 6 October 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
- 1 2 "Padma Awards Directory (1954–2009)"(PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs. Archived from the original(PDF) on 10 May 2013. Retrieved 14 December 2010.
- ↑ "Dadasaheb Phalke Award Winners". Film Federation of India. Retrieved 11 May 2014.
- 1 2 "Dr. Raj Kumar | Gubbi Karnataka Films | Bedara Kannappa | Shabda vedhi | ನಟಸಾರ್ವಭೌಮ 'ರಾಜ್' ಐದನೇ ಪುಣ್ಯತಿಥಿ". Kannada.webdunia.com. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
- ↑ Also in Tamil VEDAN KANNAPPA" A remake of Bedara Kannappa Archived 1 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
- ↑ "Swept away by the wave". The Hindu. 21 April 2006. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
- ↑ Archived 15 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
- ↑ "Frontline : In-depth analysis of issues and events in India and around the world". Frontlineonnet.com. Archived from the original on 21 September 2012. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
- ↑ In ‘Shabdavedi’ Dr Rajkumar waged a war against drug menace. Supergoodmovies.com (6 June 2011).
- 1 2 "The man who changed Kannada cinema". Rediff.com. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
- ↑ Rajkumar Filmography. Rajkumarmemorial.com.
- ↑ Vijayasarathy, R.G. (17 April 2006). "The best of Dr Rajkumar". Rediff India Abroad. Retrieved 25 September 2007.
- ↑ Shivaraj Kumar to play James Bond in Operation Golden Gang. Entertainment.oneindia.in (20 July 2010).
- 1 2 Balakrishnan, Ravi. (10 May 2008) Economic Times – The name is Kumar, Raj Kumar. The Economic Times.
- 1 2 3 "Songs sung by Dr.Rajkumar | Dr. Rajkumar". Annavaru. Archived from the original on 2 November 2013. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
- ↑ "Sampathige Savaal Songs – Sampathige Savaal Kannada Movie Songs – Kannada Songs Lyrics Trailer Videos, Preview Stills Reviews". Raaga.com. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
- ↑ Video on YouTube
- 1 2 "Dr. Rajkumar Biography, India Great Celebrity, Short essay on Dr. Rajkumar". 4to40.com. Archived from the original on 1 November 2013. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
- ↑ Outlook (Press Trust of India) – Rajkumar: Undisputed cult figure in Karnataka. News.outlookindia.com.
- ↑ Archived 6 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
- ↑ Times of India – Gajanur awaits the return of the native. The Times of India.indiatimes.com (12 November 2001).
- ↑ "Raghavendra Rajkumar to croon for Puneet's Anna Bond". oneindia.com. 13 June 2011.
- ↑ Vinay Rajkumar Debuts in Siddhartha. The New Indian Express (11 December 2014). Retrieved on 2016-10-01.
- ↑ Rajkumar's grandson to make his debut with ‘Siddartha’. The Hindu (2 May 2014). Retrieved on 2016-10-01.
- ↑ (Press Trust of India) – TN's failure on Rajkumar's security unpardonable – SC. The Indian Express.
- ↑ Veerappan's prize catch. The Hindu (20 December 1998).
- ↑ "The Abduction of Dr Rajakumar". rediff.com. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
- ↑ Krishnan, Murali (4 December 2000). "Rajkumar Release: Murky Truths" (National). The Outlook. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
- ↑ "Eye Donation Bangalore India - Eye Bank Bangalore". Retrieved 11 October 2016.
- ↑ Subramanya, K V; Raghava, M (13 April 2006). "Rajkumar's death sparks violence in Bangalore" (National). The Hindu. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
- ↑ "Companies hit by Rajkumar riots". BBC News. 14 April 2006. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
- ↑ Ramachandran, Sudha (22 April 2006). "Bengaluru: 'We want our city back!'". Asia Times. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
- ↑ "742 arrested for violence after Rajkumar's death: Police". Rediff India. Press Trust of India. 3 May 2006. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
- ↑ "Rajkumar buried; Bangalore burns". The Economic Times. 14 April 2006. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
- ↑ Sharma, Maya (12 April 2006). "Rajkumar's fans turn violent". NDTV. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
- ↑ Sastry, Anil Kumar; Subramanya, K V (14 April 2006). "Rajkumar laid to rest" (Bangalore). The Hindu. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
- ↑ "Parvathamma could not get a last glimpse" (Bangalore). The Hindu. 14 April 2006. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
- ↑ "Parvathamma Rajkumar anguished" (Bangalore). The Hindu. 14 April 2006. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
- ↑ Times of India – I can only give you my love: Raj. The Times of India.indiatimes.com (9 July 2005).
- ↑ A. Nā Prahlādarāv. "Bangarada Manushya". Open Library. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
|Vishnuvardhan, one of Kannada cinema’s most popular stars, was known for his versatility and penchant for success.|
Vishnuvardhan was art cinema’s gift to commercial cinema. A February 2008 picture.
THE late Rajkumar may be considered by many as the most celebrated icon of Kannada cinema, but Vishunuvardhan, who passed away on December 30, 2009, at the age of 59, was not far behind in terms of popularity and in iconic stature. From the mid-1970s Vishnuvardhan held his own, ‘rivalling’ Rajkumar every bit of the way for the right not so much to be the king of Kannada filmdom but to be the monarch of the box office. He was a super-duper hero who steadily and painstakingly built up his career, fan following and fan clubs, wooing and moving the masses, scoring one golden hit after the other at the box office.
A gentleman to the core, the charismatic and stylish Vishnuvardhan probably cocked a snook at that crude American aphorism “nice guys finish last”. The actor was up there among the best as a popular megastar who could essay with equal ease the role of a swashbuckling hero, a rebellious and hot-headed young man, a sensitive lover, a musician or a soldier, and as a loyal friend and family man in real life.
Vishnuvardhan acted in nearly 200 Kannada films, almost always as the hero. He also acted in a few Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi films, and tried his hand at film direction, distribution and production. Besides, he was the first leading man in Kannada films to make a big-budget film in Hindi – Inspector Dhanush, in which he co-starred with Sangeeta Bijlani.
Amiable and humorous, but with a fierce sense of knowing what he wanted, the quick-thinking Vishnuvardhan was prepared to discipline himself and work hard for success. And succeed he did. Blessed with good looks and a macho physique, a passion for theatre, and parents who encouraged him all the way, Vishnuvardhan had everything necessary to become a star. Aping nobody’s style, he retained until almost the very end a rare kind of freshness. Two of his films Master and Apta Rakshaka (his last film, during the making of which he was injured in the leg) are yet to be released.
Vishnuvardhan’s success in Kannada cinema is noteworthy because he was able to overcome an undercurrent of opposition. His achievement in cutting the undergrowth of opposition made it possible for next-generation Kannada actors such as Shankar, Ananth Nag and Ambarish to succeed.
“He had,” says the noted playwright, film-maker and actor Girish Karnad, “an aggressive ambition to succeed as a star. And for over three and half decades, he showed that he had the staying power to be at the top. Till the very end he never got overwhelmed by forces that especially during the early part of his career were out to undermine him and his value at the box office.” Karnad should know. It was he who introduced Vishnuvardhan into Kannada cinema. In 1971, a Mysore-born youngster hardly out of his teens and named Sampath Kumar (as Vishnuvardhan was then known), who had completed his collegiate education in Bangalore during which time he had passionately done amateur theatre, was looking for a role in Kannada cinema. Karnad wanted a fresh face for Vamshavriksha, a movie he and B.V. Karanth were seeking to direct. Karnad’s description of that first meeting he had with Sampath Kumar at a journalist’s house is indicative of both Vishnuvardhan’s ability to think on his feet and his burning desire to make it big.
Recounts Karnad: “At the suggestion of my assistant director Kankanhalli Gopi, I met Vishnuvardhan. As soon as he came in, without even waiting to be introduced, he started regaling us about his blossoming film career and the half a dozen films he was busy shooting for. In particular, he said that he was doing two films with Mala Sinha (the famous Bengali and Hindi matinee idol of the 1950-70 period) and that he had just returned from shooting with her in Nepal. After listening for over 10 minutes to tales about his career, I interrupted and said that it would not be possible for me to take him since shooting for Vamshavriksha was to start almost immediately and we wanted the chosen actor to give us dates. Vishnuvardhan then inquired who I was and when told him that I was the director of Vamshavriksha, he immediately withdrew everything he had just said about his blossoming film career [laughs]. He had assumed that I was another budding hero [actor] and wanted to both impress and demoralise me! He had that sort of desire to succeed.”
Vamshavriksha, released in 1972, was based on S.L. Bhyrappa’s novel by the same name and largely dealt with genealogy and widow remarriage. The film, which won Karnad and Karanth the National Film Award for excellence in direction, was just the platform Vishnuvardhan was looking for. Says Karnad: “He was a very sensitive and emotional individual. I still remember him bursting into tears when his first take did not go as desired.”
But he did essay his small role with aplomb, and as L.V. Sharada, his co-star in Vamshavriksha, recounts, Vishnuvardhan’s portrayal of the youth who rejects the protagonist’s second wife but shows he understands her in almost the next scene earned him special praise. Says Sharada: “He had dreams and was very ambitious. His portrayal in Vamshavriksha gave him the confidence.” Vishnuvardhan was art cinema’s gift to commercial cinema; the actor, ironically, shed his links with parallel cinema after Vamshavriksha. That very year, he got his first role as the hero. Noted film-maker S.R. Puttanna Kanagal, who was looking to revive and popularise commercial cinema, which had come under the onslaught of new-wave films such as Vamshavriksha and Samskara, made Nagarahavu with Vishnuvardhan in the lead. The film, based on the trilogy penned by T. R. Subba Rao, questioned the caste system, orthodox traditions and values and blind beliefs, and encouraged inter-community marriage.
Looking for a fresh face for his film, Puttanna Kanagal zeroed in on Vishnuvardhan from 300 other hopefuls. Vishnuvardhan impressed Kanagal with the way he turned his face, which to the director was akin to the way a cobra turns its hood when provoked. Nagarahavu also saw Puttanna Kanagal rechristen Sampath Kumar as Vishnuvardhan after the famous Hoysala king by the same name. Though the film brought him instant attention and stardom, Vishnuvardhan never acted in any of Puttanna Kanagal’s subsequent films, probably because most of the director’s films were women-centric.
Vishnuvardhan’s success in Nagarahavu catapulted him to playing the second lead to Rajkumar in his very next film, Gandhada Gudi. The film set the tone for what was to become for over three decades the two leading factions in Kannada filmdom.
Rajkumar was of course always supreme. Having come through the professional touring theatre, he had been there from the very beginning of Kannada cinema and had built his success on hard work, discipline and identification with the masses. Vishnuvardhan, during the making of Nagarahavu, was a novice who had acted in just one film. Playing the role of a smuggler against Rajkumar’s forest officer (the protagonists turn out to be long-lost brothers in the end), Vishnuvardhan managed to hold his own.
An episode in the film reportedly sparked a feud between the two stars. It was used to create trouble for Vishnuvardhan, who had to face the ire of Rajkumar fans. A scene in the movie has a cobra slithering between Rajkumar and Vishnuvardhan while they confront each other; Rajkumar picks up the cobra and thunders, “I’m not afraid of you.” Many movie buffs – rather debatably – view this as Rajkumar’s message to Vishnuvardhan.
But Vishnuvardhan never acted with Rajkumar again, preferring instead to plough his own furrow. But according to those who knew him intimately, the actor had high regard for Rajkumar.
Nagarahavu’s success established Vishnuvardhan as a star. Over the next 36 years, hits just flowed. Among his major films are Bootayyana Maga Ayyu and Devara Gudi (1974), Nagarahole (1977), Hombisilu (1978), Simha Jodi (1980), Sahasa Simha and Jimmigallu (1982), Bandhana (1984), Maleya Marutha (1986), Mutthina Haara (1990), Nishkarsha (1993), Suryavamsha (1999), Yajamana (2000), Simhadri Simha (2002), Apta Mithra (2003) and Mathad Mathad Mallige (2007).A competent actor
With ‘superstar’ Rajkumar, at a press conference in Bangalore in November 2004.
Was Vishnuvardhan a great actor? According to critics, he was a competent actor who knew exactly how the camera worked. Like many great film personalities he had realised early in his career that a star acted at his own peril.
With many scripts seemingly being written around his on-screen persona, some feel that Vishnuvardhan was stereotyped in hero-oriented roles. In later years he seemed under pressure to live up to his image as a macho star. It was as if his fans only came to see him fight. Nevertheless, he did have some challenging roles along the way with Bhootayyana Maga Ayyu, Hombisilu and Bandhana providing him with the kind of change he was looking for. Films such as Bandhana Maleya Marutha, Harakeya Kuri, Suprabhata, Mutthina Hara, Matte Haaditu Kogile, Yajamana, Apta Mitra, MathadMathad Mallige and Laali showcased his versatility. Vishnuvardhan occasionally sang for his movies; in recent times, when he turned very spiritual and philosophical, he took to devotional singing. An early song was “Eee Notake” in the movie Nagarahole. His rendition of “Tuttu Anna Tinnoke Bogase Neeru Kudiyokke” in Jimmigallu, a haunting ballad, is remarkable.
Vishnuvardhan won seven Film Fare awards and an equal number of State awards in the best actor category. He also received the Film Fare award for lifetime achievement in 2004, and the Dr Rajkumar Award in 2008. His film Suprabhata (1988) created a record of sorts by bagging awards in eight categories.
He acted in two Kannada films with Tamil ‘superstar’ Rajnikanth (Galate Samsara and Sahodarara Savaal, both in 1977) and a number of films with his close friend Ambarish. In one film, Diggajaru, the protagonist Vishnuvardhan dies in the lap of his friend portrayed by Ambarish. The friendship between Ambarish and Vishnuvardhan was a model one. Both of them had entered the film industry through Nagarahavu.
Vishnuvardhan had a wonderful, if at times topsy-turvy, relationship with the film producer-director Dwarakish. Together they churned out blockbuster after blockbuster. Though their relationship had turned sour, when Dwarakish decided to remake the Malayalam hit Manichitrataazhu as Apta Mitra in Kannada, Vishnuvardhan was invited to play the lead role of a psychiatrist. The film was a box-office hit.
A true professional, he rarely, if at all, accepted more than one assignment at a time. He was also known for his punctuality and involvement even in films that he did not personally produce. He also stayed away from active politics, despite vigorous wooing by political parties. He once remarked that he was not against politics, but was certainly not after power. He, however, campaigned for Ambarish whenever the latter contested an election.
Vishnuvardhan was also prepared to fight for the cause of Kannada and Kannadigas. He took an active role in the Gokak agitation launched to obtain premier language status for Kannada in Karnataka, and lent support to Rajkumar, who was leading the agitation; he also participated in the protests over the sharing of Cauvery river waters. He was in the forefront expressing solidarity when the bandit Veerappan kidnapped Rajkumar in 2000, and periodically when the Kannada film industry protested asking for more concessions and sops in order to allow it to commercially compete against cinema of other languages, most notably Hindi.
Vishnuvardhan was married to Bharati, who at the time of their marriage in 1975 was one of the leading stars of South Indian cinema.
News of Vishnuvardhan’s death sparked sporadic violence in certain pockets of south Bangalore, both when the body was taken for public viewing and during the funeral procession. Around 40 people were injured and an equal number of public buses damaged. According to police estimates, a crowd of around 40,000 attended the funeral.
To many, Vishnuvardhan’s demise will further hurt an industry that is already in the doldrums, facing a dearth of stars and finding it difficult to compete with Tamil and Telugu films, leave alone Hindi.