DR. RAJKUMAR BIOGRAPHY
Rajkumar (Kannada: ಡಾ. ರಾಜಕುಮಾರ್), born as Singanalluru Puttaswamayya Muthuraju on April 24, 1929, died on April 12, 2006, was an actor and singer in Kannada film industry. He mainly worked in Karnataka and has won awards for his work.
“Dr. Raj” (popular name) with earned title “Natasarvabhouma” (meaning emperor of acting) retained popularity in both Karnataka and other Indian states. His primary view about his fans was “I don’t know whether I will ever see God. But for me all those who are assembled here are my Gods. Fans call him “Annavru” (Kannada: ಅಣ್ಣಾವ್ರು, Big Brother) with affection. 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 (the voice of a Koel) .
Rajkumar was born on April 24, 1929 in a Kannada speaking family at Gajanur, in the erstwhile Kingdom of Mysore. The village is now located in the Erode district of Tamil Nadu along its border with Karnataka His mother tongue is Kannada. His father, Singanalluru Puttaswamayya, who was a 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.Later Dr.Rajkumar
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.One of the all time famous song “Shivappa Kaayo tande” was from his first movie. 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 Pandaribai, Leelavathi, Lakshmi, Ambika, Manjula, Jayamala, Jayachitra, Mahalaxmi, Kalpana, Jayanti, Bharati, Aarathi, Jayaprada, Madhavi, Geetha, Sarita, Gayatri 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. With the exception of one Telugu movie called “Kalahasti Mahathyam” he acted only in Kannada movies.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.Rajkumar the actor one who never turned to other languages, in spite of having a huge demand and chances to be in. He participated in several protest marches such as “Gokak Chaluvali” for the welfare of Kannada and Karnataka. Whenever there is a threat to the sovereignty of the culture and people of Kannada, he always took the leadership. That’s why still people of Kannada resembles him as their own brother and always keeps him in their heart.
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 refrained himself from entering active politics focusing his energy solely towards art and cinema. His last movie was Shabdhavedi.
Dr. Rajkumar was also well-known as a singer. He is the only actor in India, who received a national award for the singing. This award was given to him for the song “Naadamaya” for the film “Jeevana Chaitra” He sang many devotional songs also. He had trained in classical music while in Gubbi Veranna’s drama troupe. At that time it was required for everyone to at least have a working knowledge of classical music. He had sung a song in the movie Mahishasura Mardini with G K Venkatesh as the music director. Rajkumar however, did not become a full fledged singer until his hugely popular song Yare Koogadali from the movie Sampathige Sawal. Prior to his singing in Sampathige Sawal, Rajkumar’s songs were sung by Dr. P B Srinivas. He used to call PBS ‘Shaareera’ while he referred to himself as ‘Shareera’. Raj had a good voice and all his songs are popular. He excelled in singing all types of songs from romantic to heavily classical. After Yare Koogadali he sang for most of his movies and for many private albums which were mainly devotional albums. His song renditions would range from pure classical to disco and fast numbers to pathos.
Although his singing was greatly appreciated, his fans of the days of black-and-white movies in the 1960s and 1970s, swear by the fact that his true identity was P B Srinivas, who did the playback singing for most of Rajkumar’s movies, until Rajkumar himself started to sing. PBS continued singing for him in many of the movies in which Rajkumar starred in double/triple roles. A noteworthy example is the movie Babruvahana in which Rajkumar plays both Arjuna and Babruvahana wherein PBS sang for Arjuna while Rajkumar sang for Babruvahana.
In his final years, Rajkumar had lent his voice to a few other actors and sang many background solos. One such song which holds a unique distinction was for the movie Muddina Maava wherein he had provided playback to the legendary singer S.P.Balasubramaniyam, who had acted in the movie. This is probably a rare occasion where an actor sings for a singer, which is probably unmatched in the world of cinema. He had sung many devotional songs on Hanuman and Sri Raghavendra Swamiji. One of his most famous songs is “Huttidare Kannada naadalli hutta beku”.
The theatrical background he had since childhood really helped him in acting as well as singing. Adept at rendering his voice to different moods – romantic, sentimental, devotional and semi-classical, his songs about Kannada language and culture such as Jenina holeyo, Maanavanagi huttidmele and Huttidare Kannadanadinalli Hutabeku are immensely popular. He even sang a complete English song in one of his bond films. Interestingly, he lent voice for SPB in Muddina Mava and comedian Narasimharaju in Devasundari.
Naadamaya, a classical song in Raga Thodi, which won him the national award for best playback singing proves his versatility as a singer with its complex graces as it progresses with other ragas. He switches between ragas with ease and sings Swara patterns just like a professional. Kalidasa’s shlokas, songs which are based on ghazals like Sadaa Kannali, Kanneera Dhaare, Gelathi Baradu and Yaava Kaviyu have also been very melodious and popular. Besides films, he rendered his voice for many devotional songs.
As many as 17 singers gave voice to Rajkumar before he started singing his own songs, and that was after he had been acting for over two decades. Until 1974, Dr. P B Srinivas was Rajkumar’s most frequent singing voice in films. However, once when P.B. Srinivas was not available to sing for the movie Sampattige Sawaal, Composer G K Venkatesh encouraged Rajkumar to sing. With the song Yaare koogadali, Rajkumar restarted his singing career, which had stopped after the movie Ohileshwara. Thus began his journey as the most famous actor-singer that the Kannada film industry has ever seen. Singers, who lent voice to Rajkumar include Dr. P B Srinivas, Yesudas and Ghantasala Venkateshwara Rao.
Later on, Rajkumar sang songs for all the movies in which he acted, and also as a playback singer he had sung many songs to others.
In addition to classical, light classical and movie style singing he had also mastered ‘mattuu'(free style singing in Kannada mythological dramas similar to opera singing) style. The best examples are in movies ‘Bhabruvaahana’ and ‘ Bhaktha Prahalaadda. Rajkumar was also a good harmonium player.
Rajkumar’s brother, S.P. Varadaraju 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. His last son Puneeth Rajkumar passed way on October 29, 2021 due to Heart attack.
For the cause of Kannada
The “Gokak report” popularly known as “Gokak varadhi” was about making Kannada a compulsory language for primary education. Considering that the language is spoken by a majority of people in Karnataka, the Gokak movement’s goal was to give Kannada the same basic right already enjoyed by other official languages in their respective states of India. When the Kannada literary experts and students started this movement there was a positive response from the common man in Karnataka. It gained momentum when Rajkumar was asked to lead the movement. He became actively involved in the movement and soon became the force behind the Gokak movement that was designed to bring Kannada to the forefront. He took a rally from Belgaum to Bangalore and gave speeches about the importance of Kannada. The government responded positively and Kannada was to become a compulsory language of education in Karnataka. Ensuring respect and dignity for Kannada language and Kannada culture were the corner stones of his life.
On July 30, 2000, at the age of 72, Rajkumar, his son-in-law Govindaraju and two others were kidnapped from the actor’s palatial house at Gajanur in Tamil Nadu by the bandit Veerappan. Veerappan was demanding the release of his gang members who were being held in jail under a defunct anti-terrorism law. The event prompted a massive manhunt and threw the Karnataka government into crisis. Rajkumar was released unharmed on November 15, 2000, after 108 days of captivity. His kidnapping and the manner in which his release were secured are a mystery to this day.
Death and aftermath
Dr. Rajkumar died at his home in Sadashivanagar, Bangalore, on April 12, 2006 (13.45 IST) following a cardiac arrest. He had a history of heart-related problems and had been admitted to Wockhardt Hospital for treatment of unstable angina. His health had been a concern after the kidnapping and since the death of his brother S.P. Varadaraju.
Due to his larger-than-life image, the city virtually came to a halt as the news spread about the death. His death precipitated a city-wide reaction comparable to the time he was kidnapped by Veerappan. Following the news of his death, there were major unrest in Bangalore city mainly due to lack of immediate arrangements for fans to get accurate news and facilities to see the body. The Chief Minister H.D.Kumaraswamy later claimed that the violence was instigated by vested political interests however opposition blamed on lack timely arragments by responsible organizations. An unofficial bandh (closure of all shops and other establishments) was announced. More than 100 vehicles were burnt; eight people were killed in police firing. Footage of the riots were included in an episode of the American show, 30 Days. The show was filming an episode about outsourcing and ended up in the middle of the riots when Chris (the subject of the episode) had to commute home from his job. The state government declared a state-wide holiday on April 13 as a mark of respect to the former actor. Private firms and businesses all over the city and many parts of the state remained closed due to the holiday.
His body was first kept at his home in Sadashivanagar. However, due to immense crowd pressure, the body was moved initially to Palace Grounds and then later to the Kanteerava Stadium. He was laid to rest in Kanteerava Studios in Bangalore on April 13, 2006.
The Karnataka government announced to make a Rs 10 crore memorial in the memory of Dr. Rajkumar at Kanteerava studios. The memorial is under construction and hope to be finished in one year. And the plans for the Memorial is to screen Dr.Rajkumar Movies in a special Auditorium. Detailed schedule is yet to be announced. As on now a Memorial is built, which is currently worshiped by many of his Fans. Karnataka Government has appointed workers to look after this Memorial. The plan is to build a Garden with an Auditorium, where the movies will be screened. The memorial is built using Marble stones. On his Birthday,April 24 2008 , it was like a festival in this place, fans came here to celebrate Rajanna’s -Brother(Dr.Raj Kumar) birthday. Approximately 10 -20,000 people were there on that day. Dr.Raj kumars Family members were also present there in the morning. It is said that “Shivraj Kumar (Elder Son -Kannada Actor) comes here before starting any new movie to have the blessings of his father Dr.Rajkumar.