||This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Kannada Wikipedia. (July 2013)|
|Born||Singanalluru Puttaswamayya Muthuraju
24 April 1929
Gajanur, Madras Presidency, British India
|Died||12 April 2006
Bangalore, Karnataka, India
|Other names||Raj Kumar, Annavru, Gaana Gandarva, Bangarada Manushya|
|Height||5 ft 7 in|
|Spouse(s)||Parvathamma (1953-2006; his death)|
Singanalluru Puttaswamayya Muthuraju (24 April 1929 – 12 April 2006), known mononymously by his screen name Rajkumar was an actor and singer in the Kannada film industry. Raj is considered a cultural icon of Kannada, where he is also known as Rajanna, Natasarvabhouma (emperor of acting), Gaana Gandharva (singer in the court of Gods), and as Annavru (beloved elder brother).
A method actor, Rajkumar entered the film industry at the age of eight and got his first break as a lead in the 1954 film Bedara Kannappa and went on to work in over 220 films. At the age of 71, he was kidnapped in Gajanur (the place where he was brought up) by forest brigand Veerappan during a 108-day ordeal when he was released. He died of cardiac arrest at his residence in Bangalore on 12 April 2006.
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. He received in 2002 the NTR National Award. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Mysore, and is a recipient of the Padma Bhushan. and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award
Rajkumar was born on April 24, 1929 at Gajanur (Talavadi block), Madras Presidency (now Tamil Nadu). His mother tongue was Kannada. His father, Singanalluru Puttaswamayya, was an impoverished theatre-artist who played roles like Kamsa, Ravana and Hiranyakashipu. His mother's name was Lakshmamma. Whereas, Rajkumar's father was from Singânallur, near kollegala Town on the kollegala-MM hills Road. Rajkumar dropped out of school at the age of 8 after having been discovered by a movie producer, and played minor characters until he was 25 when he played his first lead role. Originally, he was named Mutturaju after the Lord Muthathi Raya, which is a temple deity located in Muttatti of Malavalli Taluk, Mandya district, Karnataka.
Before acting in Bedara Kannappa, Rajkumar acted in a movie, Srinivasa Kalyana, in which he was one of Saptharshis. This was too small a role; he remembered only that the scene in which he acted was over before he recognised himself in the scene.
Rajkumar started his career as a theatre artist with his father in a troupe led by Gubbi Veeranna. Here Rajkumar honed his acting and singing skills with Bedara Kannappa, a 1954 Kannada movie, which marked his entry into the film world. This movie was directed by H L N Simha, who christened him "Rajkumar." Rajkumar would use the same name for the rest of his life. He later forayed into film production with Ranadheera Kanteerava, which he produced.
Rajkumar acted only in Kannada movies throughout his life, except one movie Kalahasti Mahatyam, which was released in Telugu. which itself was the remake of his Kannada film Bedara Kannappa. In his lifetime, Rajkumar acted in 206 Kannada movies, excluding guest appearances. He owned a film production company called Vajreshwari Production, which produces films under the banner of Dakshayani Combines. Bhagyada Bagilu was his 100th movie, Devatha Manushya was his 200th movie, and Shabdavedhi was his 206th and last film.
His character depictions ranged from lovers to double and triple roles', from action and mythological characters to portrayals of contemporary social causes in a career spanning over five decades. Rajkumar along with his contemporaries Udaya Kumar and Kalyan Kumar were "Kumara Thrayaru" of the Kannada cinema. He has acted in 36 films with Udaya Kumar and 5 films with Kalyan Kumar over the course of his career. The films presented a populist version of Karnataka's history, focusing primarily on the southern kingdoms from the Vijayanagara Empire and later to the intrigue and mystery of the Mysore royalty.
He produced and starred in Kaviratna Kalidasa and Shankar Guru. He produced movies based on Kannada novels and made many movies against perceived social evils, such as Shabdavedi, which addressed drug abuse. He acted with many heroines in southern Indian cinema, such as Kannada's Jayanti (in over 32 films), Pandaribai (18 films), Leelavathi (38 films), Bharati (25 films), Kalpana (19 films), Aarathi (13 films), B. Saroja Devi (10 films), Harini (8 films), Madhavi (6 films), Manjula (7 films), Jayamala (6 films), Lakshmi (5 films), Geetha (5 films), Saritha (5 films), Jayaprada (4 films) and others from neighbouring states. The Hindi actress Rekha made her debut as heroine in the film Operation Jackpotnalli CID 999 with Rajkumar. He acted under many directors of south Indian cinema, from B.R. Pantulu and Puttanna Kanagal to Shankar Nag and Nagabharana. Chi. Udaya Shankar has wrote dialogues and lyrics for 85 movies. He was known for only acting in Kannada movies, even though he got many offers from different movie industries in India.
Rajkumar was the first actor in Kannada cinema to enact a role which resembled James Bond; his first such movie was Jedara Bale in 1968. Later he acted in other Bond movies such as 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 were from the director duo of Dorai-Bhagwan who began making spy flicks relatively late in their careers, including Operation Diamond Racket.
Rajkumar was also a singer, who sang many film as well as devotional songs. He won the National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer in 1992 for the song "Naadamaya" from the movie Jeevana Chaitra. It is a classical song in Thodi Raga.
He was trained in classical music while in Gubbi Veeranna's drama troupe which had a requirement for everyone to have at least a working knowledge of the classical music. He performed a song in the movie Mahishasura Mardini (this was picturised on Narasimharaju, a comedian). However, he did not become a full-fledged singer until his song "Yare Koogadali" from the movie 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 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 double/triple roles.
His songs about Kannadigas, Kannada language and culture, such as "Jenina Holeyo" from Chalisuva Modagalu, "Maanavanagi Huttidmele" from Jeevana chaitra and "Huttidare Kannada Naadalli Hutta Beku" from the movie 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 his final years, Rajkumar lent his voice to a few other actors and sang many background solos. In the song Kannappa Kottanu, from the 1993 movie Muddina Maava, wherein he provided playback to the singer S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, who acted in the movie. This was a rare occasion where an actor sang for a singer. Kalidasa's shlokas (songs) like "Maanikya Veena" and ghazal based songs like "Sadaa Kannale", "Kanneera Dhaare" and "Yaava Kaviyu". In addition to his film work, he lent his voice for many devotional songs on Hanumantha and Sri Raghavendra Swami.
Rajkumar married Parvathamma, with whom he had 5 children (two daughters and three sons). Two of his sons – Shivrajkumar and Puneet Rajkumar – have become actors in the Kannada film industry. His other son, Raghavendra Rajkumar, is an actor-turned-producer.
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 Belgaum 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 a highly disciplined man. 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, he performed Yoga and Pranayama, which is said to be the reason behind Rajkumar's physical and mental fitness. His yoga performances can be seen in his film Kamanabillu.
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.
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 (prior to 1947, it was in Madras presidency now in 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. Upon his return to Bangalore, he knelt down in front of the helicopter with his hands folded and paid respect to the Karnataka soil highlighting his Kannada pride.
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.
The Karnataka government announced its intention to make a 100 million memorial in memory of Rajkumar at Kanteerava Studios. After Rajkumar's demise, as a tribute and remembrance his fans have unveiled more than 50 statues of Rajkumar, spread across Bangalore city.
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 because of 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 the some of the exciting incidents as recalling 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.
Rajkumar was awarded numerous State and National awards. He was a recipient of the Padma Bhushan award, a doctorate from Mysore University, and the Karnataka Ratna, the highest civilian honour of the State of Karnataka, recognising him as a "Jewel of Kannada films." 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.
Rajkumar is a ten time winner of South Filmfare Awards in the Best Actor category (Kannada filmfare actor award was started only in the year 1972 by that time Rajkumar had acted 150 films as lead role, notable performances were Bedara kannappa(1954), Rayara sose(1957), Bhookailasa(1958), Mahishasuramardini(1959), Bhakta Kanakadasa(1960), Bhoodaana(1962), Nanda Deepa, Veerakesari, & Sathi Shakthi(1963), Chandavalliya Tota & Naandi(1964), Satya Harishchandra(1965), Mantralaya Mahatme, Toogudeepa, Mohini Bhasmaasura & Sandhyaraaga(1966), Bangarada Hoovu & Immadi Pulakeshi(1967), Jedara Bale, Bhaagyada Baagilu & Mannina Maga(1968), Uyyale & Mayor Muthanna(1969), Sri Krishnadevaraya, Karulina Kare, Bhale Jodi(1970), Kasturi Nivasa, Kulagaurava & Sakshatkara(1971), (a record which was later levelled by Kamal Haasan and Mammootty). Some of the films for which he received Best Actor awards include:
Total of 10 filmfare awards for best actor category.
In July 2005, Karnataka Government honored Rajkumar for his 50 years of service to Kannada films at Bangalore Palace which was named as Sarthaka Suvarna. The felicitation ceremony was attended by the entire Kannada film industry as a mark of respect and tribute to the legend.
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 the Kannada film industry and Rajkumar's movies will be an integral part of the 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 photographs of Rajkumar and stills from his popular films.
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