FRIDAY REVIEW

A king-size faith

SINGLE ROLE Contemporaries of Rajkumar — Shivaji Ganesan and MGR took the lead in politics, but he stayed away

SINGLE ROLE Contemporaries of Rajkumar — Shivaji Ganesan and MGR took the lead in politics, but he stayed away   | Photo Credit: Photo (RIGHT): V. Sreenivasa Murthy

MURALIDHARA KHAJANE

When stars are making a beeline to align themselves with political parties, one wonders what kept the late thespian Rajkumar completely away from it. Today, is the actor’s 80th anniversary



Every film personality — even those who are barely half a film and one scene old — is making hay while the election sun shines. Most stars nurture strong political ambitions and wouldn’t want to forego any media attention.

As you catch yourself doing a reality check, your mind stops at Rajkumar, the thespian who is no more. Even amid high pressure, the actor kept away from politics and stuck to his passion – acting. Dr. Raj or Natasarvabhouma or “Annaavru” to millions of his fans, acted in more than 200 Kannada films in a career spanning over five decades. Had the actor who passed away on April 12, 2006 lived on, he would have turned 80 today. In our circumstances, a film star has always been perceived as larger than life, a hero, who is righteous, incorruptible, invincible and capable of turning fantasy into reality. As far as the common man is concerned, he can do no wrong. That’s probably why most mega stars find themselves propelled into politics. Little did C.N. Annadurai, founder of DMK, imagine that his career-changing move from that of a movie script writer to a successful politician would be emulated by many in the film industry in the years to follow. The three biggest success stories of film stars-turned-politicians are from the south; N.T. Rama Rao from Andhra Pradesh, M.G. Ramachandran and Ms. Jayalalita from Tamil Nadu. This general election has had its share of star-studded personalities, the biggest new entrant being the the Telugu superhero Chiranjeevi, who could prove to be another NTR.

What was it that made Rajkumar resist politics, unlike his contemporaries MGR

and NTR? This actor who intensely loved his language and had great respect for literature, and was ready to plunge in to any

movement that espoused the Kannada cause, steered clear from the political arena. The way he lived, the characters he portrayed, his childlike exuberance and his simplicity made him very dear to the masses.

He even played the social reformer in most of his roles in the films. “Mannina Maga” which was made decades ago highlighted the importance of agriculture. An agriculturist near Bellary started tilling his neglected land and became rich. If in “Jeevana Chaitra” it’s a tirade against alcoholism, in “Aakasmika” it is prostitution, and in “Shabdavedi” it is a battle against the drug mafia. Vulgarity, sex, violence and degradation of women were never to be seen in his films. This singer-actor, went around the State raising funds for film fraternity through his musical nights. He even collected funds for Kargil and Orissa cyclone victims. But with all his commitment towards espousing the right cause, Rajkumar remained indifferent to the role of playing the politician. Successive governments in the State have acknowledged his supremacy over the industry and they have all instinctively turned to him for guidance and advice. It is seldom that one sees a film actor wielding such awesome clout. Despite this, he never aspired to exploit his popularity for personal reasons. Writers and litterateurs went on an agitation demanding the implementation of the recommendations of the Gokak Committee, but when the movement failed to gain momentum, an appeal went to Dr. Rajkumar to spearhead the agitation and government was forced to bend. His strength was again amply demonstrated in 1982, when he fought the supposed anti-Kannada policy of Ramakrishna Hegde’s Janata Government.

Even in 1978, when Ms. Indira Gandhi contested the election from Chikmagalur, post Emergency, the Janata Party wanted Rajkumar to contest against her. Many felt that at least at this point in time Rajkumar would make the momentous leap. But Rajkumar made himself scarce. Since then he kept all the political parties at a distance. But political parties continued to consult him on any discussion on the film industry.

In an interview, Rajkumar gave a very clear picture of the purpose of his life. “I am an artiste. I do not have time in my life to think of anything else. Politics is the last thing on my mind.” Rajkumar simply chose to renounce anything that was ambitious. Dr. Rajkumar was always modest about his achievements. He attributed everything to his fans — he reverentially called them “Abhimani Devarugalu”. Though he had no political aspirations, he played an important role in the socio-political spectrum of the State.

Memorial

The work on the Rajkumar memorial is expected to be complete in the next one year. The first phase will have a museum and library, where belongings of Dr. Rajkumar would be kept for public viewing. In the second phase, an auditorium with a capacity of 200 seats will be constructed.



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