Kannada actor Rajkumar was an accomplished practitioner of Yoga, who learnt it by one Mr. Nayak. His good-health was attributed to Yoga practice, which is said to have enabled him to survive the tough conditions, while he was abducted by forest brigand Veerappan. He is said to have taught Yoga to his colleagues, during films-shooting including Jayanthi, who has acted in 23 movies with him.
Rajkumar started singing from 1974, which meant P B Srinivas was no more singing for Rajkumar. Rajkumar had depth in his voice, while P B Srinivas was known for melody. Rajkumar's regal voice became popular and so, composers began to use his own voice to singing.
It is noteworthy that both of them were in very good terms till Rajkumar's end. P B Srinivas kept singing in Rajkumar movies, whenever there were dual-roles or for other actors in Rajkumar movies.
Early lifeRajkumar was born on April 24, 1928 in a Kannada speaking family at Gajanur, a village on the border of Karnataka and Tamilnadu His mother tongue is Kannada. His father, Singanalluru Puttaswamayya, who was a famous theater artist and his mother, Lakshmamma, named their eldest son Mutturaju after Lord Muthathi Raya. His name was changed to "Rajkumar" (meaning Prince) after his film debut.
Rajkumar started his career as a theater artist with his father in a troupe led by the legendary Gubbi Veeranna. It was here that Rajkumar honed his acting and singing skills.
Bedara Kannappa, a 1954 Kannada language movie, marked his entry into the film world. This movie was directed by H L N Simha who also christened him Rajkumar. Rajkumar would use the same name for the rest of his life. He later forayed into film production with the hugely popular Ranadheera Kanteerava which he produced with another legend of Kannada cinema, Balakrishna. This movie which was made exclusively with technicians from Karnataka also marked the beginning of full fledged film making in Karnataka.
Dr. Rajkumar was also one of the most versatile actors in Indian cinema. His character depictions ranged from comedy to action, from lover to double/triple roles, from mythological characters to portrayal of modern day social causes. He acted with the most popular heroines in southern Indian cinema, such as Kannada's Pandaribai, Leelavathi, Jayanti, Bharati, Arati, Jayaprada, Madhavi, Geetha, Sarita and others from neighbouring states. He acted with many directors of the south Indian cinema from B.R. Pantulu, Puttanna Kanagal to Shankar Nag and Nagabharana. With the exception of one Telugu movie called "Bhaktha Kannappa", he acted only in Kannada movies. Actors who have acted with him considered it an achievement of their lifetime. Prithviraj Kapoor acted in the kannada movie Saakshatkara in the role of Dr. Rajkumar's father.
In his lifetime, Dr. Rajkumar acted in 206 Kannada movies, excluding guest appearances. He owned a film production company called Vajreshwari Production, which produced films under the banner of Dakshayani Combines. Bhagyada Bagilu was his 100th movie and Devatha Manushya was his 200th movie.
Two of his most famous performances were in his own productions: Kaviratna Kalidasa and Shankar-Guru. He produced movies based on famous Kannada novels. He was ably supported by his friend and script writer Chi. Udayashankar. He signed films only after consultation with his brother, S.P. Varadaraju. He chose stories that usually had a social message for the audience. He also made many movies against social evils. One such movie is Shabdavedi which is against the evil of drugs.
He never smoked a cigar/cigarette or acted as an alcoholic in any of his movies (excepting a few in the early days of his career). In real life too, he was a non-smoker and non-alcoholic and maintained a very high standard of living, performing daily Yogasanas and following a strict diet.
Though he had numerous chances to try his hand at Indian politics owing to his mass following, he shied away from active politics focusing his energy toward art and cinema. His last movie was Shabdhavedi, in which Jayaprada played the female lead.
Almost all his films are super hits. Some of the most memorable films include Adhe Kannu, Na Ninna Mareyalare, Hosa Belakhu, Thayige Takka Maga,Shravana Banthu,Bedara Kannappa, Bangarada Manushya, Kastoori Nivasa, Sri Krishnadevaraya, Kula Gowrava, Gandhada Gudi, Sampathige Sawal, Shankar-Guru, Babruvahana, Bhakta Prahalada, Halu Jenu, Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma, Jeevana Chaitra'', Akasmika, Premada Kanike, Vasantha Geetha, Apoorva Sangama, Daari Tappida Maga, Badavara Bandhu, Yeradu Kanasu, Mayura, Bangaradha Panjara, Havina Hede, Anuraga Aralithu, Jedara Bale, Shruti Seridaga, "Sanaadi Apanna", "Babruvahana", "Chalisuva Modagalu", "Guri", "Parashuram", "Devathaa Manushya" (his 200th film), "Huliya Haalina Mevu", "Kavirathna Kalidasa"Satya Harischandra" "bhagyavantharoou" "bhakta Kumbara" "Vasantha Geeta" etc. His last movie was 'Shabdevedi' along with Jayaprada, which showed Raj revolting against drug dealers.
Dr. Rajkumar was also a well-known singer. He sang many devotional songs. He won the National Award for the song "Naadamaya" from the movie Jeevana Chaitra. He had trained in classical music while in Gubbi Veranna's drama troupe. At that time it was required for everyone to at least have a working knowledge of classical music. He had sung a song in the movie Mahishasura Mardini with G.K.Venkatesh as the music director. Rajkumar however, did not become a full fledged singer until his hugely popular song Yare Koogadali from the movie Sampathige Sawal. Prior to his singing in Sampathige Sawal, Rajkumar's songs were sung by Dr. P B Srinivas. He used to call PBS 'Shaareera' while he referred to himself as 'Shareera'. Raj had a good voice and all his songs are popular. He excelled in singing all types of songs from romantic to heavily classical. After Yare Koogadali he sang for most of his movies and for many private albums which were mainly devotional albums. His song renditions would range from pure classical to disco and fast numbers to pathos.
Although his singing was greatly appreciated, his fans of the days of black-and-white movies in 1960s and 1970s, swear by the fact that his true identity was P B Srinivas, who did the playback singing for most of Rajkumar's movies, until Rajkumar himself started to sing. PBS continued singing for him in many of the movies in which Rajkumar starred in double/triple roles.
In his final years, Rajkumar had lent his voice to a few other actors and sang many background solos. One such song which holds a unique distinction was for the movie Muddina Maava wherein he had provided playback to the legendary singer S.P.Balasubramaniyam, who had acted in the movie. This is probably a rare occasion where an actor sings for a singer, which is probably unmatched in the world of cinema. He had sung many devotional songs on Hanuman and Sri Raghavendra Swamiji. One of his most famous songs is "huTTidare kannaDa nADalli huTTa bEku".
Rajkumar’s voice had the smoothness & depth comparable to PB Srinivas. His voice was capable of greater vivacity, noticeable in songs like Sigivem Kshanadali, Thai Thai Bangari, Naa Ninna Mareyalare, Le le Appana Magale and Aradhisuve.
The theatrical background he had since childhood really helped him in acting as well as singing. Adept at rendering his voice to different moods - romantic, sentimental, devotional and semi-classical, his songs about Kannada language and culture such as Jenina holeyo, Maanavanagi huttidmele and Huttidare are immensely popular. He even sang a complete English song in one of his bond films. Interestingly, he lent voice for SPB in Muddina Mava and comedian Narasimharaju in Devasundari.
Naadamaya, a classical song in Raga Thodi, which won him the national award for best playback singing proves his versatility as a singer with its complex graces as it progresses with other ragas. He switches between ragas with ease and sings Swara patterns just like a professional. Kalidasa's shlokas, songs which are based on ghazals like Sadaa Kannali, Kanneera Dhaare, Gelathi Baradu and Yaava Kaviyu have also been very melodious and popular. Besides films, he rendered his voice for many devotional songs.
As many as 17 singers gave voice to Rajkumar before he started singing his own songs, and that was after he had been acting for over two decades. Until 1974, P.B. Srinivas was Rajkumar's most frequent singing voice in films. However, once when P.B. Srinivas was not available to sing for the movie Sampattige Sawaal, Composer G K Venkatesh encouraged Rajkumar to sing. With the song Yaare koogadali, Rajkumar restarted his singing career, which had stopped after the movie Ohileshwara. Thus began his journey as the most famous actor-singer that the Kannada film industry has ever seen. Singers, who lent voice to Rajkumar include P B Srinivas and Ghantasala Venkateshwara Rao.
Later on, Rajkumar sang songs for all the movies in which he acted, and also as a playback singer he has sung many songs to others.
Rajkumar was a highly disciplined man. He would wake up and perform yoga and pranayama at 4am. He practiced Carnatic music for one hour each in the morning and in the evening. He never smoked or drank alcohol in real life and in movies. He never swore nor did he drink and smoke, on or off the screen. He was always punctual for any shooting and programmes. His dress code consisted of only white or ivory dhoti and white shirt, with sandals. He was always clean shaven. He spent most of his vacations at his native place, Gajanur, near the forest area where he was later kidnapped. During shooting he insisted that all the members of the unit have the same menu and food must be of high quality. He has been this way since his early career days.
Rajkumar's charity workVery few people know about Rajkumar's charity work. Rajkumar never spoke about his charity and had supposedly requested the journalists not write about it. He is supposed to have donated the proceedings from his devotional albums to charity and to have built an ashram for young widows and orphan girls. He toured Karnataka extensively to send donations to Kargil war victims. He donated a lot of money in aid of eye donation camps and conducted many blood donation camp on the occasion of his birthday. He was an eye donor and as per his wish, his eyes were donated after his death.
FamilyRajkumar had a brother, S.P. Varadaraju, who worked with him in his production company. He had 2 sisters, Sharadamma and Nagamma.
He was married to Parvathamma, who later became a film producer. They have three sons, Shivaraj Kumar, Raghavendra Rajkumar and Puneet Rajkumar, and two daughters, Lakshmi and Poornima. All his three sons are popular actors in Kannada films.
For the cause of KannadaThe "Gokak report" popularly known as "Gokak varadi" was about making Kannada a compulsory language for primary education. Considering that the language is spoken by a majority of people in Karnataka, the Gokak movement's goal was to give Kannada the same basic right already enjoyed by other official languages in their respective states of India. When the Kannada literary experts and students started this movement there was a positive response from the common man in Karnataka. It gained momentum when Rajkumar was asked to lead the movement. He became actively involved in the movement and soon became the force behind the Gokak movement that was designed to bring Kannada to the forefront. He took a rally from Belgaum to Bangalore and gave speeches about the importance of Kannada. The government responded positively and Kannada was to become a compulsory language of education in Karnataka. Ensuring respect and dignity for Kannada language and Kannada culture were the corner stones of his life.
Awards and honoursRajkumar received numerous state, national and international awards. He received an honorary doctorate from Mysore University in 1976.
He won 10 Filmfare awards for the best actor category — the second highest in the history of Indian films.
He won nine state awards in the best actor category. (State awards for films were started by the Karnataka government in 1967 when Rajkumar's career was half over. But still he managed to win the most awards in the Kannada film industry.)
He won a National award in best singer category for "Naadamaya ee Lokavella" song in Jeevana Chaitra movie.
He received the Padma Bhushan award from the Government of India in 1983 and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1995, in recognition of his contributions to the Kannada film industry.
He was rewarded Karnataka Ratna in the year 1993 by the Government of Karnataka.
In 1985, Rajkumar won the prestigious Kentucky Colonel award presented in Bangalore by the then-governor of Kentucky, U.S..
His fans have conferred him the title "Nata Saarvabhowma" (The Emperor of Acting).
On July 30, 2000, at the age of 72, Rajkumar, his son-in-law Govindaraju and two others were kidnapped from the actor's palatial house at Gajanur in Tamil Nadu by the bandit and terrorist Veerappan. Veerappan was demanding 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. Rajkumar was released unharmed on November 15, 2000, after 108 days of captivity. His kidnapping and the manner in which his release were secured are a mystery to this day.
Death and aftermath
Dr. Rajkumar died at his home in Sadashivanagar, Bangalore, on April 12, 2006 (13.45 IST) following a cardiac arrest. He had a history of heart-related problems and had been admitted to Wockhardt Hospital for treatment of unstable angina. His health had been a concern after the kidnapping and since the death of his brother S.P. Varadaraju.
Due to his larger-than-life image, the city virtually came to a halt as the news spread about the death. His death precipitated a city-wide reaction comparable to the time he was kidnapped by Veerappan. Following the news of his death, there were violent outbreaks in Bangalore city. The Chief Minister H.D.Kumaraswamy later claimed that the violence was instigated by vested political interests. An unofficial bandh (closure of all shops and other establishments) was announced. More than 100 vehicles were burnt; eight people were killed in police firing. BBC News reported on the financial impactof the riots.
The state government declared a state-wide holiday on April 13 as a mark of respect to the former actor. Private firms and businesses all over the city and many parts of the state remained closed due to the holiday.
His body was first kept at his home in Sadashivanagar. However, due to immense crowd pressure, the body was moved initially to Palace Grounds and then later to the Kanteerava Stadium. He was laid to rest in Kanteerava Studios in Bangalore on April 13, 2006.
Rajeeva in Bangarada Manushya
Goraa in Bhakta Kumbara
Kalidasa in Kaviratna Kalidasa
Harishchandra in Satya Harishchandra
Mayura in Mayura
Jodidaar Vishwanathaiah in Jeevana Chaitra
Krishnadevaraya in Sri Krishnadevaraya
The Karnataka government announced to make a Rs 10 crore memorial in the memory of Dr. Rajkumar at Kanteerava studios.
It is unlikely if a non-Kannadiga will ever understand the Dr Raj Kumar phenomenon, but it wouldn’t hurt to try.
Unlike Amitabh Bachchan, he was not the star of the millennium, ubiquitous in movies, songs, ads, commercials, stage events, voice-overs, documentaries, etc.
Unlike NTR and MGR, he never tried to extract his box office appeal at the ballot box, although he could well have and many political parties did try.
Unlike Prem Nazir, he did not act in hundreds of films, just a couple of hundred of them in a long career spanning nearly five decades.
Unlike Kamal Hassan, Rajnikanth and Chiranjeevi, he never tried his hand at other south Indian languages.
Unlike his own colleague and compatriot, Vishnuvardhan, he never ventured into Bollywood.
Unlike Naseeruddin Shah and Shah Rukh Khan, he was never very comfortable in English and rarely ever tried to explain the secret of his craft.
But, to see star after star of Kannada filmdom sob and cry and to launch into adjectives, and to see them sob and cry again as they fall short of words to explain, to understand the passing of a legend is a small lesson in what an abstract thing genuine superstardom is.
Stardom that transcends the ordinary and nearly touches the divine.
On television, older stars like Vishnuvardhan are saying that as long as the sun and moon exist, Dr Raj’s name will shine on and be synonymous with our language and its culture. “Dr Raj was Kannada; without him Kannada won’t exist,” he says.
On television, younger stars like Ramesh Aravind are talking of how it seems as if every family in the whole State and beyond seems to have all lost the head of the family, all at the same time. “Without him, Kannada filmdom would be nothing,” he says.
On television, T.N. Seetharam is saying how the State, the language and its culture have lost their moral compass that has also had social moorings.
On television, the Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy is saying how there will never be another Dr Raj Kumar ever again.
But even these fail to convey the true significance of a life, a legend.
The numbers tell a small story. An oeuvre of 205 films. A career of 45 years. Ten Filmfare awards. Nine State awards for best actor. A national award for singing. Padma Vibhushan. Dada Saheb Phalke award.
But all of these fade in front of the big ‘D’ that Dr Rajkumar brought to the screen and more importantly, off it.
D for decency.Decency in his choice of films and topics.
Decency in his public and private conduct.
Decency in the manner in which he accepted victory and defeat.
Decency virtually in the manner in which he went about things.
This decency, in a profession that has very little of it; this decency, in an industry that could do with a lot of it; this decency that is inherent in the average Kannadiga is what tied annavru subliminally to his countless fans.
It is this subliminal connect that is behind the tears.
It is this subliminal connect that makes it difficult to believe.
RAVI BELAGERE on what killed Dr Raj KumarRajkumar saavu, birthday sambhrama ondu kadenadeyuththiruvaaga maneya hiththilalli maguthottiyalli biddu saththu hoodanthe.
You know, naavella, at least nanna thale maarinavaru Rajkumar tharaa dress maadikondu, avara tharaa maathaaduthta, avaru cinemaaadalli thaayiyannu, thangiyannu, preyasiyannu preethisidahaage preethisuththaa badukalu yathnisidavaru.
Avaru P.B. Srinivas badalige haadalu ninthaaga namage besaravaagiththu.
Avarige P.B. haadiddrene chennagiththu antha annisuthiththu.
But slowly, slowly we started liking his singing too.
He was our hero, our bond, babruvaahana, our mayura and,of course, our Bangaarada Manushya.
Rajkumaar ge namma jothege vayassooo aayithu.
Haagantha namage goththaadaddu, avarannu Veerappan kidnap maadidaagale!
That's when he started looking really fragile and helpless and old. Alliya thanka dheera, veera, yoga patu, ditta kannadiga anthella kaanisikolluththidda Raj "nannanna bidisikondu hogi" antha more iduvanthaadaru.
It was natural, but we still loved him.
Kaadininda banda mele he got dementia. There were jokesabout him. This started gerantophobia. His visits to hospitals and rumours of the impending end became common.
But what really killed him, in the end, was his friendlessness.
The death of his brother Varadappa recently had taken the life out of him and left him literally alone.
He wanted to be with the one friend he had seen from his cradle.
VISHWESHWAR BHAT: Dr Raj wasn’t just an actor
The very name Dr Raj evokes in me many pictures. And Dr Raj is several “men” in a procession.
Since childhood he was the one actor who triggered our collective imagination. In fact a whole generation started seeing Kannada films only because Dr Raj Kumar acted in it.
In fact, I saw only his films for many years. Dr. Raj Kumar was also one of the most versatile actors in Indian cinema. His character depiction ranging from comedy to action, from rustic to aristocrat, from double to triple roles, from mythological characters to modern-day hero.
He adapted himself to all types of roles, thus creating for himself an indelible niche in the minds of the audience.
But Dr Raj was more than just a film personality.
Sure, he was a matinee idol for Kannadigas. But had been just that, he would have remained as a film actor and he would not have commanded the respect and love from millions of Kannadigas.
In his entirety, Dr Raj was an icon for Kannadigas.
An all-pervading phenomenon.
A cultural and social voice of the State. He took up the Kannada cause when its interests were in jeopardy. And I think he was the only person who could hold sway on Kannadigas for such a long period.
This was possible because of his humane nature. He touched the chords of millions of Kannadigas especially large sections of the middle class for whom his roles were tailor-made.
Dr Raj was very cautious about his image and used to select such roles that would enhance his persona. Till the very end last he protected it with great care.
For this sake he stopped smoking cigarettes, avoided liquor on and off the screen, and lived a very simple life unlike any film star. He was very innocent on worldly matters.
His wife Parvatamma played a very important role in his life. Many directors must have worked with him in his reel life but in real life she was the only director. She played this role with such command till the very end that people thought she was the director!
She never allowed him to air his views in public. She was always at his side. She used to decide the heroines for his films. I wonder why people called him annaavru as the real annaavru was Parvatamma.
In a way, it immensely helped Dr Raj tread the same course through out his career.
Nijakkoo Kannadakkobbane Raj.
When he died I felt I had lost a bit of myself.
I will miss him.