|Born||Singanalluru Puttaswamayya Muthuraju
24 April 1929
Gajanur, Madras Presidency, British India
(now in Erode, Tamil Nadu, India)
|Died||12 April 2006
Bangalore, Karnataka, India
|Other names||Appaji, Annavru|
|Spouse(s)||Parvathamma (m. 1953)|
|Children||5, including Shivanna, Raghavendra, Puneeth|
|Relatives||see Rajkumar family|
|Awards||Padma Bhushan (1983), Dadasaheb Phalke Award (1995)|
Singanalluru Puttaswamayya Muthuraju (24 April 1929 – 12 April 2006), known mononymously by his stage name Rajkumar, 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 Nata Saarvabhouma (Emperor of Actors), Bangarada Manushya (Golden Man), Vara Nata (Gifted Actor), Vishwa Manava (Universal Man) and Rajanna (Respected Elder Brother, Raj) .
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 1954 film Bedara Kannappa. He went on to work in over 220 films essaying a variety of roles, and excelling in portraying mythological and historical characters in films such as Bhakta Kanakadasa (1960), Ranadheera Kanteerava (1960), Satya Harishchandra (1965), Immadi Pulikeshi (1967), Sri Krishnadevaraya (1970), Bhakta Kumbara (1974), Mayura (1975) and Babruvahana (1977) and Bhakta Prahlada (1983). Trained in classical music during his theatre days, Rajkumar also became an accomplished singer in Kannada cinema and despite imperfections in Shruti and pitch, he came to be known for his diction in the language. He mostly sang for his own films since 1974. The songs "Yaare Koogadali", "Huttidare Kannada", "Hey Dinakara" and "Naadamaya" became widely popular. For his rendition of the latter song, he was awarded the National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer. 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. In 2000, he was kidnapped from his farmhouse at Gajanur by Veerappan and was released after 108 days. His final screen appearance came in Jogi in 2005. 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 thirteen Karnataka State Film Awards, Eight South Filmfare Awards and one National Film Award. 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 lifetime contribution to Indian Cinema.
Rajkumar was born on 24 April 1929 in Gajanur, a hamlet in a predominantly Kannada-speaking Talavadi taluk in the erstwhile Madras Presidency (in present-day Erode district, Tamil Nadu). His father, Puttaswamayya and mother, Lakshmamma were impoverished theatre artists from Singanallur. Puttaswamayya was good at playing roles such as Kamsa, Ravana and Hiranyakashipu. Rajkumar left school at eight and was later discovered by film producers, who cast him in bit roles that he played till he was 25. Originally, he was named Mutturaja, after the Muthaththi 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 in 1954, Rajkumar appeared in Sri Srinivasa Kalyana in 1952, as one of the seven Saptarishi (sages). It was an insignificant role, he remembered that 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 the 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 appearances. He owned a production company called Vajreshwari Production under the banner Dakshayani Combines. Bhaagyada Baagilu was his 100th film, Devataa Manushya was 200th film and Shabdavedhi was his 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 the span over five decades. Rajkumar along with his contemporaries Udaya Kumar and Kalyan Kumar was referred as the "Kumara Thrayaru" of 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 such as Ranadheera Kanteerava and Kaviratna Kalidasa. He made movies from Kannada novels and made movies against perceived social evils such as "Jeevana Chaitra" on evils of drinking and 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) and 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 85 of his movies.
Rajkumar was the first Indian artist to enact the role of James Bond in Jedara Bale. Later, in Operation Jackpotnalli CID 999, Goadalli CID 999 and Operation Diamond Racket he played roles chronicling the adventures of Prakash aka Agent CID 999, a James Bondesque superspy. Much of these films were made from the directing pair of Dorai and Bhagwan who began making spy flicks relatively late in their career, including Operation Diamond Racket.
Rajkumar trained in classical music when he was with Gubbi Veeranna's theatre troupe. The song "Om Namaha Shivaya" from the 1956 film Ohileshwara, that he also starred in, was his first in a film. He subsequently sang "Thumbithu Manava" for Mahishasura Mardini (1959). However, he became a full-fledged singer only in 1974 when he sang in place of P. B. Sreenivas for Sampathige Savaal, who had till then sung for most songs picturised on Rajkumar, fell ill. Rajkumar sang the "energetic" "Yaare Koogadali" for the film which became widely popular during the time and is considered one of his best songs.
Rajkumar has been credited for having sung songs of various genres and each rendition according to the mood of the scene in the film. In "Yaaru Tiliyaru Ninna" for Babruvahana (1977), a prosodic form of Kannada poetry that required the tone to be a combination of sarcasm and anger, he blended the "twin skills of theatrics and music". For Nee Nanna Gellalare (1981), he sang two songs — "Jeeva Hoovagide" and "Anuraga Enaytu" — beginning both with the refrain "I love you", that is "full of Carnatic gamakas". After the same tone in the refrain, they "take on a life of their own", with the form according to "love and happiness" in the scene and the latter when there is "love, but a discord" in the scene. He is known widely for his rendition of "Nadamaya" for Jeevana Chaitra (1992), a song based on the raga of Todi and "with ... complex graces, and strings other ragas as it progresses. He switches ragas with ease, and sings complex swara patterns like a professional classical artiste." For the rendition, he was awarded the National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer. His frequent collaboration with the composer duo of Rajan–Nagendra gave musical hits such as Bangarada Hoovu (1967), Nyayave Devaru (1971), Swayamvara (1973), Sri Srinivasa Kalyana (1974), Nanobba Kalla (1979) and Chalisuva Modagalu (1982).
Rajkumar has sung and enacted for 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 a 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 Kalidasa shlokas such as "Maanikya Veena" and ghazal-based songs such as "Sadaa Kannale", "Kanneera Dhaare" and "Yaava Kaviyu".
Rajkumar recorded many devotional songs beginning in the 1970s for Columbia Recording Company starting with "Mantralayakke Hogona" in 1972. His widely popular LP record "Guruvara Bantamma" was also recorded during the time. In 1979, Sangeetha Cassettes became India's first licensed pre-recorded cassettes. Rajkumar sang for the record producers devotional songs glorifying the saint Raghavendra and the Hindu deity Hanuman.
Rajkumar married a 14-year-old Parvathamma, his cousin, on 25 June 1953 in Nanjangud. It went ahead in accordance to the agreement that their fathers made following the latter's birth. Together, they had five children; sons Shiva, Raghavendra and Puneeth, and daughters Lakshmi and Poornima. Having lived a "hand to mouth existence" after marriage in a joint family that included 24 children in Madras, the family moved to Bangalore in 1972, after Rajkumar began getting multiple film offers.
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. A Special Task Force (STF) set up to capture Veerapan had earlier warned Rajkumar against visiting the farmhouse, but his son Raghavendra later acknowledged that his father had not taken the threat seriously.
On 12 April 2006, Rajkumar returned to his Sadashivanagar residence after his regular 20-minute walk and had a general medical check-up by 11:30 a.m. (IST). At 1:50 pm (IST), as he sat on a sofa, he asked a member of his family to slow the fan down and immediately collapsed. His personal physician Ramana Rao was called for, who rushed within three minutes, and performed external cardiac massage and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Rajkumar was then taken to MS Ramaiah Memorial Hospital and was administered intracardiac injections. Efforts to revive him failed and he was pronounced dead at 2:05 pm (IST).
Rajkumar's death triggered an outpouring of grief. There was major shutdown in the city of Bengaluru. An unofficial bandh (closure of all shops and other establishments) was observed. Several people attempted suicide after hearing the news; most of them were rescued. The funeral cortège the next day started from Sree Kanteerava Stadium to Kanteerava Studios a few minutes before 12:30 pm (IST), a distance of 14 kilometres (8.7 mi). Around two million people followed his remains. However, the entire cortège was marked with violence with mourners attacking public property and police, who resorted to lathi-charge and tear gas. Passing through Krishna Raja Circle, Palace Road, T. Chowdiah Road, Sadashivanagar, Yeswanthpur and Goraguntepalya localities, the cortège reached the Studios at 4:45 pm (IST). His body was buried with State honors at 5:45 p.m (IST) at the premises of the studios. The last rites were performed by his eldest son Shiva, guided by priests from the city's ISKCON and the Gayathri Temples. His eyes were donated to two visually impaired persons the same day.
On 19 April, the government of Karnataka announced that a memorial would be made in Rajkumar's honor at Kanteerava Studios in association with the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce at the cost ₹100 million. The blueprint of the memorial was cleared by a panel comprising members of Rajkumar's family, representatives of the Kannada film industry and the state government. After a delay over allocation of funds and land, it was finally opened on November 2014, after a sum of ₹70 million was used in developing it over an area of 2.5 acres (1.0 ha). It included "an open-air auditorium, mini-water body, landscaping and a bust" of Rajkumar. 40 photographs of selected films of Rajkumar were kept on display at the inauguration. A permanent exhibition on the history of Rajkumar's films that included his photographs, trophies and souvenirs, alongside a stock of dialogue, scripts, songs and other memorabilia associated with him were put on display. An annual calendar for 2012 was released containing photographs of Rajkumar and stills from his films.
Rajkumar was best regarded[by whom?] for being a highly disciplined man in both his personal and professional lives. He practised Carnatic music for an hour each day 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 world cinema who has mastered Yoga.
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 a simple white dhoti and shirt. He spent most of his vacations in his hometown, Gajanur, near the forest area where he was later abducted.
Although Rajkumar rejected numerous offers to don the political mantle, he was able to influence the State's political fortunes without ever being officially involved 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 Bengaluru and gave speeches about the importance of Kannada Gokak_agitation. 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 awarded numerous State, National and 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 prestige from the state of Kentucky, USA. 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.
Total of 8 Filmfare awards for best actor category.
On July 2005, the 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) service to Karnataka at Bangalore Palace named Sarthaka Suvarna (Significant Gold). This ceremony was attended by the entire Kannada film industry marking respect and tribute to the legend, and could be called an official celebration of Golden Jubilee of Rajkumar's works and services to the Kannada film industry.
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