Parvathamma: The pillar behind the iconic star

This is what the grieving Raghavendra Rajkumar had to say about his mother — Parvathamma Rajkumar, “She came unknown and she is going well known...” These lines truly epitomise the singular contribution and indelible stamp that Parvathamma left on the eight-decade old history of Kannada cinema. Parvathamma was known as a woman of a sturdy will and amazing poise and her life was defined by the legendary actor Dr Rajkumar. She was undoubtedly the first woman, who carved a niche for herself in the Kannada film world as a producer. “She was the first ever female film entrepreneur in Karnataka, who was responsible for what is easily the most sensational success story in the history of Kannada cinema,” says Doddahulluru Rukkoji, a film historian, who also produced a humongous two volume book on Dr Rajkumar’s life.


Parvathamma was the centre of the story of Rajkumar’s life and he along with the children were the centre of her life. For her, Rajkumar was also like one among her children and she played a huge role in managing his on and off screen image.

Parvathamma was just 13 when she married Rajkumar. Though she excelled in studies and her paternal uncle wanted her to become a doctor, she married early at the insistence of her mother-in-law. Though Rajkumar entered Kannada cinema with Bedara Kannappa , that still did not change his fortunes. It was still a hand-to-mouth existence for the couple who had to support an extended family of over 30 members! What made Parvathamma protect Rajkumar and step into the challenging world of production and distribution is an interesting story, recalls Rukkoji. “She did not venture out of her home, till Rajkumar crossed the 100th mark in films. When she learnt the film industry was taking advantage of the ‘innocence’ of her husband, she decided to step in and launched her own production house — Chandrika Movies in 1975 — with the intention of making meaningful contribution to Kannada cinema.”

Chandrika Movies made its presence felt with Hubballi and also took up the distribution of Trimurthi across Karnataka. She then founded Vajreshwari Combines in 1980, accepting the challenge posed by some producers and distributors, who formed a cartel, at that point of time. Shankar Guru was the maiden production of Vajreshwari Combines, which is still considered an unparalleled hit.

Parvathamma received threats from detractors when she launched Vajreshwari. But she stood her ground, undeterred by them. Today, Vajreshwari Combines is a one-stop solution provider for movie making in Karnakata offering production, distribution and exhibition of movies, editing and tele-production — all under its operations. Its sister concern, Poornima Productions is also engaged in similar operations.

“Producing 83 quality films, besides financing and distribution by a woman from a rural background is in itself a record of sorts in the Indian film industry,” opines Baraguru Ramachandrappa, who headed the Committee that revised Kannada Chalanachitra Ithihasa.


It is significant that she stood like a rock through the traumatic three-months, when Rajkumar was kidnapped by the forest brigand Veerappan. She left no stone unturned to bring him back and did not shy away even to plead with the bandit to ensure he gave medicines to Rajkumar while holding him hostage.

The final tragedy was when she lost her only chance to see her husband’s body before he was buried, because of the chaos outside Kanteerva Studio. The place was a sea of humanity as hordes of people came to have a last glimpse of the matinee idol.


From a housewife to becoming one of the most powerful women of Sandalwood, the transition of Parvathamma in the ’70s is a great example of strong will and true leadership qualities. Yet, she never let that success and fame get to her head. “Her managerial skills were excellent. She carried on with the production and distribution of films as efficiently as she ran her famous household. The many production companies, owing their existence to Rajkumar’s family, have now become a byword for immaculate management. They know none of the chaos which generally reigns in a film production company,” says Rukkoji. Besides Rajkumar’s films, she also produced successful films featuring their sons — Shivarajkumar, Raghavendra Rajkumar, Puneeth Rajkumar and her grand son Vinay Raghavendra. She was also instrumental in launching the careers of stars like Malashri, Prema, Rakshita, Sudharani and Ramya. She was awarded the honorary doctorate by the Bengaluru University for her contribution to Kannada cinema. Rajkumar would consult her on any issue and had complete faith in her decisions, recalls Ramachandrappa. She was also honoured with various awards and one such was the Kannada Rajyotsava Award for her contribution to the field of cinema and culture.


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Printable version | May 23, 2022 2:36:50 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/parvathamma-the-pillar-behind-the-iconic-star/article18699026.ece