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This 'despicable villain' was a much loved star

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GOOD FRIENDS: Actor Vajramuni seen with thespian Rajkumar By Special Arrangement
GOOD FRIENDS: Actor Vajramuni seen with thespian Rajkumar By Special Arrangement

K.N. Venkatasubba Rao

BANGALORE: Vajramuni, who died here on Thursday, became a household name in the State for his roles as villain, but he was also known for the comic characters he brought to life.

A product of the Kannada amateur theatre, Vajramuni was a college dropout who held a diploma in cinematography and wanted to pursue his interest. But was destined to be an actor, to "strut and fret" in front of the camera before "falling into the sear and the yellow leaf ", as he told journalist friends a few days before he lost his voice.

In 1967, impressed by Vajramuni's brilliant performance in the mythological play "Prachanda Ravana", the ace director of Kannada cinema, late Puttanna Kanagal, gave him a role in his ambitious film "Saavira Mettilu". However, the project that did not take off. Convinced by Vajramuni's acting potential, Puttanna included him in the cast of the film "Mallammana Pavada". Vajramuni, then 23, played the villain against the mighty team of Rajkumar and B. Saroja Devi. The success of the film helped him to carve a niche for himself as a "despicable villain", and he was to Kannada cinema what late Amrish Puri was to Bollywood.

With the passage of time that marked the gradual and natural fading away of artistes such as Dikki Madhava Rao and Udayakumar, who played the villain against Rajkumar, Vajramuni became a regular member of the cast of a majority of "Raj" starrers. As a staunch supporter of Rajkumar, he was at the centre of many controversies involving the thespian.

In the footsteps of his father, who was a member of the Bangalore City Corporation, and late Dayananda Sagar, a relative, Vajramuni remained a staunch supporter of the Congress from his younger days. He lost the 1994 Legislative Assembly elections from the Basavanagudi Assembly constituency.

The Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce, the Karnataka Chalanachitra Kalavidra Sangha, the Kannada Film Directors' Association and other organisations associated with the film industry have mourned the veteran artiste. The Kannada film industry declared a holiday on Thursday as a mark of respect to his memory.

Prasanna Kumar dead

Noted comedian Prasanna Kumar (47) died after a heart attack here on Wednesday night. He is survived by his wife and a son. Popularly known as "Dadiya Prasanna", Kumar started his career as a child artiste in director Gitapriya's children's film, "Simhada Marisainya".

He acted in over 50 films, including the recently released "Aham Premasmi".

He also produced a film, "Gajendra", with Ambarish in the lead role.

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