Besides acting in 197 Kannada films, Vishnuvardhan starred in Tamil movies such as “Viduthalai” and “Sri Raghavendra” with Rajnikanth. He also co-starred with ace Malayalam actor, Mammooty in “Kauravar”
Kannada superstar Vishnuvardhan, who died in Mysore early on Wednesday, arrived on the Kannada silver screen in 1970 as Sampath Kumar (or “Kumara” in theatre circles) in a film by the late B.V. Karanth, based on S.L. Bhyrappa’s novel Vamshavruksha in which he acted with Girish Karnad.
His next assignment was the commercial film Nagarahavu directed by the veteran director S. R. Puttanna Kanagal. The film was launched at a time when the new wave cinema had announced its presence with Pattabhirama Reddy’s film based on U.R. Ananthamurthy’s Samskara, and Vamvashavriksha.
Instead of banking on lead artistes and stars, Puttanna Kanagal launched fresh faces like Vishnuvardhan in Nagarahavu, which had a powerful script that discussed the caste system and inter-religious marriage. Kumara was rechristened Vishnuvardhan, after the famous Hoysala king, by Puttanna Kanagal. Interestingly, Vishnuvardhan never acted again in any of Puttanna Kanagal’s subsequent films.
Born on September 18, 1950 in Mysore, Vishnuvardhan completed his primary and secondary education in Mysore, later graduating from the National College, Basavanagudi. He married Bharati, the reigning heroine of South Indian cinema at the time on February 27, 1975.
Known for his composure and keen sense of humour, Vishnuvardhan also acted in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi films. He occasionally sang for his movies and more recently, took to devotional singing. Vishnuvardhan won seven Film Fare awards for best performance, and an equal number of the State awards in the best actor category.
He also received the Film Fare award for life time achievement in 2004, and the Dr. Rajkumar award in 2008. His film Suprabhata created a record of sorts in 1988 by bagging awards in eight categories.
Right from Nagarahavu to Dinesh Baboo’s Ballari Naga, Vishnuvardhan acted in more than 200 films. His last film Aptha Rakshaka is yet to be released. He acted in two films with Rajnikanth ( Galate Samsara and Sahodarara Savaal) and a number of films with his close friend Ambarish. In the film Diggajaru, the protagonist Vishnuvardhan dies on the lap of his friend played by Ambarish. His major films include Bootayyana Maga Ayyu, Hombisilu, Sahasa Simha, Devara Gudi, Nagarahole, Malaya Maruta, Simha Jodi, Bandhana, Muthina Haara, Jimmi Gallu, Simhadriya Simha, Nishkarsha, Aptha Mithra, Suryavamsha, Mathad Mathad Mallige and Yajamana. Vishnuvardhan, who stayed away from active politics, once said that he was not against politics but certainly not after power.
Kannada film actors, several political leaders and organisations have deeply mourned the sudden demise of the superstar.