Staff Reporter

Actors recall their association with the thespian

BANGALORE: There was no thunderous applause. No whistles or catcalls. Just memories and deep, inconsolable regret.

To make up for the violence that marked the final journey of thespian Rajkumar, the world of theatre, his first love, and his first "karmabhoomi," celebrated the complete man that Dr. Rajkumar had been, and the endearing qualities that shaped Kannada cinema and theatre, and defined everything that matters to Kannada identity.

Samsa, the open-air auditorium of Ravindra Kalaksehtra, was full with silent listeners, as artistes and others who had worked and lived and shared the real-life and reel-life dramas with a man who wore his greatness lightly, spoke of the late actor's child-like innocence, charm, his antics and his art, and the lessons he taught by just being himself.

B. Saroja Devi, the yesteryear heroine who acted opposite Dr. Rajkumar in dozens of films, gulped tears as she remembered how he had tormented her on the sets with his mischief, and teased her mercilessly on her engagement ceremony.

When she lost her husband, Sriharsha, he had said, "I cannot bear to see you without your kumkum, please become the old Saroja."

Magic touch

Vishnuvardhan, actor, said Dr. Rajkumar had the magic of touching every heart in a gathering of hundreds.

"When I was a greenhorn, he used to beckon me with his eyes, and we would converse with our eyes, and I learnt the power of the eye in communication from this university called Dr. Rajkumar," he said.

For "Pranayaraja" Srinath, who said he was sure the title stuck after Dr. Rajkumar declared him ideal for romantic roles, remembered that he had once signed on to play a villain in a Raj film.

On learning about this, Dr. Rajkumar insisted that the storyline had to be changed as there was no way he was going to fight a young Srinath.

I.M. Vittal Murthy, who heads the Karnataka State Industrial Investment Development Corporation, and film producer, spoke of growing up in the time of Dr. Rajkumar as a rising star in the film world.

Jnanpith award winner U.R. Ananthamurthy said, "Dr. Rajkumar had touched the hearts of Kannadigas in a way that we writers can never hope to do. The best tribute we can pay is to make every Kannadiga a literate."

A.J. Sadashiva, retired judge, remembered his three encounters with Dr. Rajkumar.

Nataka Academy Chairman Kappanna, who organised the programme, summed up Dr. Rajkumar's greatness saying that "even after everyone has said everything, someone always comes up to say I know something more."

B. Jayashree, Gubbi Veeranna's granddaughter, dedicated a song that was very dear to Dr. Rajkumar from one of the plays he used to act in.