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Will there be another like him?

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WHEN IT ALL BEGAN: A scene from `Bedarakannappa'. PHOTO: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT
WHEN IT ALL BEGAN: A scene from `Bedarakannappa'. PHOTO: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

K.N. Venkatasubba Rao

Thespian Rajkumar's first death anniversary will be observed today

  • He portrayed the multiple aspects of humanity
  • His versatile roles lent him a larger-than-life image

    BANGALORE: The acknowledged king of Kannada cinema Rajkumar, who reigned for over five decades, died on April 12 a year ago leaving a legacy of 206 films, many songs he himself sang and his abiding love for Kannada.

    Thus for at least two generations, his unforgettable roles as deities, demons, legendary heroes, saints and social reformers in mythological, historical and social genres of Kannada cinema and the Kannada-related movements he lead are still relevant.

    Beginning with Bedarakannappa (1954) to Shabdavedhi (2004) he depicted the multiple aspects of humanity and the human condition. Roles such as Sri Rama, Ravana, Sri Krishna, Arjuna, Babruvahana, Bheema, Hiranya Kasipu, Harishchandra, Kabir, Tukaram, Kanaka Dasa, Kumbara, Ohileshwara, Raghavendra, Sarvajna, Immadi Pulakeshi, Sri Krishnadevaraya, King Mayura Varma of Kadamba dynasty and Ranadheera Kanteerva of Mysore Wodeyar dynasty lent him a larger-than-life image.

    His interpretation of the king Nrupatunga, sage Vishwamitra and Bhakta Ambareesha had generated curiosity and debate in the film industry even before they were completed.

    His films such as Chandavalliya Thota, Sandhyaraga, Karuneye Kutumbada Kannu, Kulavadhu, Chakratheertha, Margadarshi, Bangarada Manushya, Eradu Kanasu and Jeevana Chaitra, based on popular Kannada novels, provided an insight to social situations. These films were also cathartic to his adoring audiences.

    Even his critics have acknowledged his immense contribution to the film industry and society at large. He would have remained just another artiste had he not been blessed with the talent of striking a balance between the value-based screen image and the invaluable public image he enjoyed due to his self-effacing demeanour. He was a contemporary of M.G. Ramachandran who eventually became a force to reckon with in Tamil Nadu politics. And he was as charismatic. However, it was the Janata Party which sensed the full measure of his vote bank potential. Apart from his large fan following, some political leaders watched him as he went about helping flood-affected people in north Karnataka in the late 1960s.

    He won over a large section of Kannada journalists who were overwhelmed when he played the Good Samaritan in helping them when a major Kannada daily was in distress. Encouraged by all this, some political leaders thought they had found an ideal candidate in him to take on Indira Gandhi in the historic Chikmagalur by-election in 1978. But Rajkumar politely refused.

    The Gokak agitation demanding supremacy to Kannada in primary education and in the State administration brought him to the centre stage of the campaign, which gained momentum after his entry. Will the 74-year-old film industry see another like him?

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