The Gentle Giant of Karnataka
One of the greatest sons of Karnataka soil, Padmabhushana Dr. Rajkumar, rightly titled the celebrity of celebrities, has endeared himself to art lovers by his captivating performances in 204 Kannada movies and the soul stirring rendering of innumerable songs (both devotional and film-hits). After 25 years of stage performances in lead roles, he made his debut in Bedara Kannappa in 1954. A role that held the audience with unimaginable intensity. His wife Smt. Parvathamma Rajkumar is the guiding force in the family of three actor sons Shivaraj, Raghavendra and Puneeth. Dr. Raj has been decorated with innumerable awards, which include the Dadasaheb Palkhe Award in 1995 and the Padmabhushana in 1999. To begin at the beginning...
Dr. Raj was born on the 24th of April 1929 in Singhanallur (Mysore District) to Lakshmamma and Singanallur Puttaswamiah, the greatest protagonist of theatre whose personality and stage presence was so impactful that it sent shivers down the spines of the audience when he essayed roles like Kamsa, Ravana, Hiranya Kashipu. etc. His metallic bass voice, penchant for singing and his immense histrionic ability was carried from the 'Rangabhoomi' or professional theatre to Cinema by Dr. Raj, who dedicated himself to the professional troupe playing dramas and was also involved in Gubbi Veeranna's theatre troupe.
Dr. Raj recollects, "My parents, especially appaji, was a stickler for discipline and insisted on us having social commitment, discipline and in inculcation of values in the strictest sense. I am forever in awe of and respect my parents extremely. Whatever I am today is due to my parent's grace. The knowledge and valuable guidance that my parents bestowed on me can never go unheeded by me."
Dr. Rajkumar, who is now 70 years, believes in living each day to the fullest. He lives in a palatial bungalow in Sadashivnagar. Being very fond of gardening and farming, he indulges in both at his farmhouse, Puneeth Farms on Mysore Road. More often than not one would find Dr. Rajkumar go about his daily activities with a song on his lips and a smile in his heart.
Dr. Rajkumar was born in Singhanallur but was brought up in Gajanooru, a place that he visits three to four times in a year. Dr. Raj asserts "I am very fond of Bangalore, the Bangalore of yesteryears is dearer to my heart than what it has become today. I am appalled by the increasing city traffic, the unbearable pollution and the lack of concern for the same among the citizens."
Dr. Raj, as such, is a very simple person. There are no worldly things that he is attached to, for that matter it is years since he has touched money. He is as distanced from money as the sky is from this earth. You will be surprised to know that Dr. Raj, who has played the desi Bond in movies like Operation Jackpot" (which was incidentally bollywood Rekha's launch vehicle.) "Operation Diamond Rocket" and "Goadalli CID 999" has not handled any electronic gadget except the remote of his favorite 53" SONY Home Theatre. In fact he does not handle the phone nor does he remember his phone numbers and would rather ask someone to dial for him.
His most enjoyable moments are when he is watching movies, He absolutely loves movies as they encompass every possible art form. He loves watching English action ones on the LD in his own home theatre with a large 103" projection unit. He watches all recent popular Kannada, Tamil and Hindi movies that are good in preview theatres. Dr. Raj watches television whenever possible, he affirms that the Kannada Channels are the ones that he prefers most as it is for us as.
He is not possessive about anything but he does dote on his Mercedez Benz car (An Ivory color one that the family gifted him for his birthday in '94). In fact, so fond of it is he that he remembers every single scratch on the car and further gets a little upset if he finds a new unexplained one on it. He also unflinchingly wipes any dust that he chances upon the Mercedez with his own 'panche.'
Dr. Rajkumar devotion to God is as legendary as he is. It is rare that one finds a Kannadiga house sans cassettes of Dr. Rajkumar’s devotional songs. He is a very God fearing man. He is devoted to Raghavendra Swamy. Ramayana and Mahabharatha were two serials that Dr. Rajkumar would watch sincerely and with utmost devotion. So touched was he by Mahabharatha that he even performed a pooja to the television when Krishna reveals his true form to Aijuna (Gitopadesha) and distributed the Arathi to all his family members. When Mahabharatha or Ramayana were telecast no one was to cause any disturbance of any kind, one was not even supposed to honk within his compound. If he were unable to watch it he would insist that it be recorded.
How can one forget the day in ‘91 when sudden rumors about Dr. Rajkumar’s ill health shook Karnataka. It was only after the doyen of the masses made a special announcement on television relayed immediately through live satellite link that the entire state calmed down. This had such an impact on Dr. Rajkumar, who had decided then to stop acting due to the demise of his mother, to replenish his commitment to his fans and announce “Jeevana Chaitra”. The public concern and outcry got him closer to his fans and he decided to act again. Cartoonist Ponnappa, in a recent Rotary meeting. when asked to draw a caricature of Dr. Raj, refused to do so stating two reasons. “Firstly the respect that I have for Dr. Raj, secondly Karnataka will burn if I make fun of this great man who is deeply respected by his massive fan following.
He has a select lot of close friends who have been with him since a long time, but his closest aide and friend in need is Ramaswamy, a resident of Tiptur, a camaraderie that dates to 55 years plus. So close are they to each other that each time Ramaswamy visits Dr. Raj at Bangalore, Dr. Raj would see him off, not at his door-step nor the gate but would travel hack with him all the way to Tiptur till Ramaswaniy’s doorstep. If at all Dr. Raj has called up or written to any person other than his close family members that is Ramaswamy.
Javagal Srinath, when asked about Dr. Raj, stated that he was and is an ardent fan of Dr. Rajkumar and the songs sung by him are closest to his heart. Music, truly is the breath of his life. Dr. Raj has a distinct sense of music, the lack of formal musical coaching has not stopped him from being a singer par excellence. He recently bagged the National Award for his song 'Naadamayi, ee lokave...' He is also a good Sitar and Harmonium player. He is enthralled by Hindustani and Karnatic Classical music. Mehdi Hassan, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali, Vilayat Khan and Pandit Ravishankar are among his favorites.
Dr. Raj loves food especially homely food preferably cooked in the traditional Mysore style. To this day he can give many a tip on an expert cook on masala’s and recipes. He likes people who like eating and remembers to invite them whenever their favorite food is prepared at home.
History has been created many times by this extraordinary actor, Bangarada Manushya ran for nearly two years in Karnataka State. Most of his fan following are not only charmed by his performances but are so inspired by his healthy lifestyle that they too strive to follow his example. Fondly titled as “Annoru” (Elder Brother) by all Kannadigas he is one film personality who is never addressed in the singular by any of his fans. His onscreen image too mirrors his clean lifestyle and his fans respect Dr. Raj’s refusal to indulge in negative activities. The maximum he could was to put a cigarette in his mouth and search for the matchbox (Kasturi Nivasa) without lighting it and pouring liquor into a glass without drinking it (Sipayi Rarnu).
His talks and demonstrations on Yoga have inspired many a fan to take up Yoga as a way of life. Were you aware of the fact that he started learning Yoga at the age of 50 and that it took him very little time to become a 'Yogi'. In 1985 while he was shooting in Maldives for "Ondu Mutthina Kathe" he would repeatedly stay underwater for spans of a minute or more without any breathing aid, this at the age of 55 plus.
Anyone who has had the good fortune of meeting Dr. Rajkumar will unfailingly treasure that moment, such is the rapport that Dr. Raj builds up with everyone. Rarely does he finish d conversation with those introduced to him without asking them about their work, native place, health and well-being. Dr. Raj respects every person and wishes that the best in him or her is given vent to always. Anil Kumble fondly remembers the day when he, as a kid, met Dr. Raj (after he watched 'Daari Tappida Maga' in which Dr. Raj had portrayed the role of a good son and another of a wayward one.) and queried to him "Are you the good guy dancing to his own tunes as a romantic hero or the bad guy?"
To conclude, I recall the moments when I was all agog to meet Dr. Rajkumar, a great personality whom I had known to be legendary. It was only on meeting him and experiencing the aura that radiated from him that I bowed deeper to the person in him whose mesmerizing simplicity and goodness gave his eyes it’s everlasting glitter, one that would shine brighter than the brightest star in my memory. As a befitting finale to this travelogue into the person behind the awe-inspiring personality of Dr. Rajkumar I pen two observations.
One made about Dr. Rajkumar's by Kamal Hassan, one of Dr. Rajkuniar's greatest and most ardent fans, who has described in words simple Dr. Rajkumar’s histrionic ability and transfixing screen presence... "Millions of actors have got the chance to play larger than life roles, and fall back to the ground once the camera shuts, Dr. Rajkumar is one personality on the screen who essays larger than life roles with a depth and completeness only because of his being truly larger than life in reality."
The person closest to Dr. Rajkumar, Smt. Parvathamma Rajkumar, who has been his pillar of strength and support which she happily extends to Dr. Rajkumar when asked to describe Rajkumar and further pinpoint the happiest moment that she had cherished with him, profoundly stated… " I fail in an attempt to find the words to describe him, it is impossible for me describe him, not once have I even thought of a fitting answer to this. The various hues to his unbounded personality can only be experienced. Every moment that I find myself with him stands out to he the happiest in my life..."
As she rightly sums it up... "Words would only prove to be limiting to describe him."
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