A charming off screen persona

Starstruck Honavalli Krishna with Dr. Rajkumar PHOTOS: D.C. NAGESH  

It is a filmy story. The beginnings of Honnavalli Krishna’s relationship with Kannada’s legendary actor Dr. Rajkumar seems straight out of a 80s film. Like the rest of Karnataka, Krishna too, was a huge admirer of Rajkumar. He desperately wanted to see him. In the year 1969, he left his village Honnavalli in Arakalgudu Taluk, with the resolve that he would meet the great actor.

Krishna, who came from a poor family, reached Bangalore with great difficulty. After enquiring with a few people, he landed at Rajkumar’s house. But by then, the actor had moved to Madras. “I asked his neighbour if he knew where Rajkumar lived in Madras. He had no clue,” says Krishna. However, the man told him that he should visit Shri Rama Book Stall near Kapali Theatre and buy the New Film Diary which had addresses of all the film stars. Krishna went to the shop, and found the book. “You know, it was six annas! But I had to buy it. I opened the book and saw photographs of Rajkumar, Narasimharaju, Balakrishna, and all the top actors of those days. Within me, I felt I was in seventh heaven.” From there he headed straight to Madras.

Madras was an unfamiliar city, the language was unknown… Krishna took up a job as a cleaner in a hotel. Within a few days, he managed to get the address of Rajkumar’s residence and landed at his gate. “Saar, Golden Studio le irkaare (he is in Golden Studio),” the watchman told him. The watchman at the Golden Studio allowed him in only after a two anna bribe. “I managed to enter the studio, but they would not let me go to the floor. By chance I met the production assistant Mr. Mani, a kind man. I explained my journey to him, and he plonked me in a corner. ‘Wait here. You will see Rajkumar.’ So I stood…,” he recalls. After an hour or so, two actors of yesteryear, Rajashankar and Chandrakala, came out. Rajkumar followed. For Krishna, it was like God appearing before him. He fell at his feet. “Who are you? Where are you from?” Rajumar asked. Krishna was so excited that words failed him. He mumbled something, “I’ll leave,” he told the actor. “Leave?! Wait, I need to talk to you, you’ve come from so far…,” the actor insisted. Krishna told Rajkumar that all he desired was to see him, and that was fulfilled. “I have rented a cycle, and have to return to work. I will leave…,” Krishna rushed off.

In the months to come, Krishna visited Rajkumar’s house and slowly Parvthamma, the actor’s wife, became fond of Krishna. She was from a village close to Krishna’s and they had lots to talk. He soon became a regular at the Rajkumar household, running errands for the actor and his family. “Those days I used to work in Pandaribai’s Drama Company. Whenever I was free, I would rush to their house. A lot of producers, co-actors, directors, singers would come, and Parvathakka would send me to buy Torino, Fanta and snacks for the guests. There was Anna’s favourite hotel nearby. They made very tasty samosas. He would make me bring 20-25 samosas. He loved to feed people and was very happy if they ate well.” Whenever Vajramuni and Toogudeepa Srinivas came to Madras, they visited Rajkumar, and invariably they were asked to come for lunch. “There were two drivers, Nawab and Yellappa. One of them would drive the car, and I would go with Anna to bring chicken and mutton. He would serve a feast for his guests.”

Rajkumar was extremely fond of Krishna. He used to be at his beck and call, and would confide his all in him. Krishna desired only to be around the great actor and nothing else. This was something that Rajkumar loved him for. “There are many things that one needs to learn from him. Even if it was a servant at home, far younger than him, Anna never addressed them in singular. In the 45 years I was with him, I never saw him cross his legs. If a senior actor or anyone visited the sets, he would touch their feet. Mark my words, there will never be another person like him. His humility, simplicity… none can match.”

Krishna says that Rajkumar and Vishnuvardhan shared a very cordial relationship. If Vishnuvardhan was in his presence, he would twirl his moustache for him and say, ‘you are looking very nice. What lovely eyes you have….etc’. He would always remember to praise his acting, and the same was true of Vishnuvardhan too. Every Saturday, after an elaborate puja, he would sit with the entire family of 50, have his favourite idli and chutney. Before leaving for the day’s shooting, he would give his mother all the details, touch her feet and leave. “There’s so much to learn from him…”

Once, Krishna had told him how he felt that Rajkumar’s performance in the film Babruvahana was extraordinary. “You think so… I thought I could have done better…,” Rajkumar replied. “He was an eternal student,” says Krishna, “constantly evaluating himself.”

In moments of sadness and grief, Krishna goes to the Rajkumar Samadhi and sits there all by himself. “I feel he is there, I can see him… I always get a lot of strength from my visits to that place….,” he trails off.

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 4:58:21 PM |

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