Sunday, March 9, 2008

Dr. Rajkumar (Kannada Cinema Legendary Actor)

Dr. Rajkumar (Puttaswamayya Muthuraju, April 24, 1928-April 12, 2006) was the most popular actor in Kannada film industry. He mainly worked in Karnataka and usually seen as a role model to Kannadigas.
"Dr. Raj" or "Natasarvabhouma" or "Annavru"(Big Brother) to millions of his fans, he was also called as the John Wayne of South Indian cinema. He acted in more than 200 Kannada movies in a career spanning over five decades. Most of his movies were epic films in Kannada film industry. He was also a well-known singer, as a playback singer as well as of devotional songs. His voice is referred as kogile kanta. Rajkumar is the only Indian actor who has received national awards for both acting and singing.

Early life
Rajkumar was born on April 24, 1928 in a Kannada speaking family at Gajanur, a village on the border of Karnataka and Tamilnadu His mother tongue is Kannada. His father, Singanalluru Puttaswamayya, who was a famous theater artist and his mother, Lakshmamma, named their eldest son Mutturaju after Lord Muthathi Raya. His name was changed to "Rajkumar" (meaning Prince) after his film debut.

Film career
Rajkumar started his career as a theater artist with his father in a troupe led by the legendary Gubbi Veeranna. It was here that Rajkumar honed his acting and singing skills.
Bedara Kannappa, a 1954 Kannada language movie, marked his entry into the film world. This movie was directed by H L N Simha who also christened him Rajkumar. Rajkumar would use the same name for the rest of his life. He later forayed into film production with the hugely popular Ranadheera Kanteerava which he produced with another legend of Kannada cinema, Balakrishna. This movie which was made exclusively with technicians from Karnataka also marked the beginning of full fledged film making in Karnataka.
Dr. Rajkumar was also one of the most versatile actors in Indian cinema. His character depictions ranged from comedy to action, from lover to double/triple roles, from mythological characters to portrayal of modern day social causes. He acted with the most popular heroines in southern Indian cinema, such as Kannada's Pandaribai, Leelavathi, Jayanti, Bharati, Arati, Jayaprada, Madhavi, Geetha, Sarita and others from neighbouring states. He acted with many directors of the south Indian cinema from B.R. Pantulu, Puttanna Kanagal to Shankar Nag and Nagabharana. He was known for only acting in Kannada movies, even though he got many offers from different movie industries in India. Actors who have acted with him considered it an achievement of their lifetime. Prithviraj Kapoor acted in the movie Saakshatkara in the role of Dr. Rajkumar's father.
In his lifetime, Dr. Rajkumar acted in 206 Kannada movies, excluding guest appearances. He owned a film production company called Vajreshwari Production, which produced films under the banner of Dakshayani Combines. Bhagyada Bagilu was his 100th movie and Devatha Manushya was his 200th movie.
Two of his most famous performances were in his own productions: Kaviratna Kalidasa and Shankar-Guru. He produced movies based on famous Kannada novels. He was ably supported by his friend and script writer Chi. Udayashankar. He signed films only after consultation with his brother, S.P. Varadaraju. He chose stories that usually had a social message for the audience. He also made many movies against social evils. One such movie is Shabdavedi which is against the evil of drugs.
He never smoked a cigar/cigarette or acted as an alcoholic in any of his movies (excepting a few in the early days of his career). In real life too, he was a non-smoker and non-alcoholic and maintained a very high standard of living, performing daily Yogasanas and following a strict diet.
Though he had numerous chances to try his hand at Indian politics owing to his mass following, he shied away from active politics focusing his energy toward art and cinema. His last movie was Shabdhavedi, in which Jayaprada played the female lead.

Rajkumar's discipline
Rajkumar was a highly disciplined man. He would wake up and perform yoga and pranayama at 4am. He practiced Carnatic music for one hour each in the morning and in the evening. He never smoked or drank alcohol in real life and in movies. He never swore nor did he drink and smoke, on or off the screen. He was always punctual for any shooting and programmes. His dress code consisted of only white or ivory dhoti and white shirt, with sandals. He was always clean shaven. He spent most of his vacations at his native place, Gajanur, near the forest area where he was later kidnapped. During shooting he insisted that all the members of the unit have the same menu and food must be of high quality. He has been this way since his early career days.

Rajkumar had a brother, S.P. Varadaraju, who worked with him in his production company. He had 2 sisters, Sharadamma and Nagamma.
He was married to Parvathamma, who later became a film producer. They have three sons, Shivaraj Kumar, Raghavendra Rajkumar and Puneet Rajkumar, and two daughters, Lakshmi and Poornima. All his three sons are popular actors in Kannada films.

Awards and honours
Rajkumar received numerous state, national and international awards. He received an honorary doctorate from Mysore University in 1976.
He won 10 Filmfare awards for the best actor category — the second highest in the history of Indian films.
He won nine state awards in the best actor category. (State awards for films were started by the Karnataka government in 1967 when Rajkumar's career was half over. But still he managed to win the most awards in the Kannada film industry.)
He won a National award in best singer category for "Naadamaya ee Lokavella" song in Jeevana Chaitra movie.
He received the Padma Bhushan award from the Government of India in 1983 and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1995, in recognition of his contributions to the Kannada film industry.
He was rewarded Karnataka Ratna in the year 1993 by the Government of Karnataka.
In 1985, Rajkumar won the prestigious Kentucky Colonel award presented in Bangalore by the then-governor of Kentucky, U.S..
His fans have conferred him the title "Nata Saarvabhowma" (The Emperor of Acting).

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