Veteran Kannada actor Rajesh passed away at a private hospital here early on Saturday. He was 89, and was hospitalised following age-related ailments about a week ago.
In a career spanning over four decades, Rajesh acted in more than 150 films as a lead actor in the 60s and 70s, and later in character roles. He was a contemporary of the Kumar triumvirate — Rajkumar, Udaya Kumar, and Kalyan Kumar.
Born on April 15, 1932 in Bengaluru, he was attracted to acting as a school-going boy and often bunked classes to attend theatre rehearsals. Though he joined a government department as a typist after his studies, it was acting that constantly drew him. He set up Shakti Nataka Mandali, staging many popular plays and even writing some, while also acting in plays of other companies. Born Muni Chowdappa he changed his name to Vidyasagar during his theatres days and became Rajesh after entering films.
It was director Hunsur Krishnamurthy who introduced him to films through Veera Sankalpa. He applied for leave and went to Chennai (then Madras) to act in the film, but eventually quit the government job to take to full-time acting. Films such as Sri Ramanjeneya Yuddha,Gange Gowri, Namma Ooru and many more followed. Namma Ooru released in 1968 was a hit that gave him a firm footing in the industry.
Though his acting was influenced by the style of company theatre, he came in for praise for nuanced acting in films such as Devara Duddu where he was paired with Jayanthi. He was also known for his clear diction and good vocabulary in Kannada. Kappu Bilupu, Brindavana, Bhale Bhaskara, Vishakanye, Urvashi, Kasturi Vijaya and Aatma Shakthi, Beluvalada Madilalli, Pitamaha, Kaliyuga were among his better known films. In later years, Rajesh also acted in television serials.
Rajesh won several honours, including the first Dr. Rajkumar Cultural Endowment Award by the Karnataka Sahitya Parishat. One of his daughters, Asha Rani, was also an actor and producer and she is married to multilingual star Arjun Sarja.
A host of film personalities, politicians and other public figures have condoled the death of the actor. Rajesh’s body was kept at his residence at Vidyaranyapura here and later at Ravindra Kalakshetra for people to pay their last respects. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai was among those who visited Ravindra Kalakshetra. The last rites were conducted late on Saturday.