One of the rarest and probably the most difficult thing is may be finding a Kannadiga who has not seen a Rajkumar movie. A recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke award, his was a larger than life image in Karnataka. The number of people who attended his cortege in Bangalore stands as a testimony to this fact. An estimated 500,000 people had gathered to have a last glimpse of their idol.
I might have seen around 20-30 movies of Rajkumar out of a little more than 200 movies in which the star acted. A versatile actor, who started his career as a dramatist and later moved to cinema. He was also a talented singer whose renditions ranged from classical to devotional to even fast numbers. He is one star who never smoked on screen and except for a few films in his initial days he never played the role of a drunkard. Every movie of his were family entertainers in real sense with the subject of good over evil and he being on the good side most of the times keeping to his extremely staid image.
There was a sense of incommodiousness as I read through the news items of Rajkumar’s life. I feel the names of Balakrishna, Narashima Raju and Vajramuni should go synonymously with the name of Rajkumar when the talk is about a movie. A majority of hit movies of Rajkumar had either Balakrishna or Narashima Raju or Vajramuni or all of them; Balakrishna, I have heard was partially deaf. His screen presence is really note worthy. He almost always played the role of a crooked relative or a friend. Narashima Raju, on other hand almost always played the role of the comedian/supporting actor and Vajramuni the role of the villain. Probably it is this combination which was the formula of success of most of the movies. Straight comedy, devoid of any sarcasm or vulgarity was the trade mark of Narashima Raju. Bunny teeth, razor thin physic and his innocent foolish questioning look makes him the toughest competitor for any comedian. Vajramuni on the other hand was probably born to play the part of a villain! His voice, hairstyle and his dialogue delivery were simply superb. Those were the days, in my opinion, the golden era of the Kannada film industry. An industry with the fan enthroned king, Rajkumar at the helm. The king, who was a demigod to the fans, yet humble and down to earth. Such was the life of Rajkumar and the respect for him in the hearts of the people.
But fate seemed to have planned other wise for this respected and honored star who met a dishonored demise. The unruly rampage and the riots that accompanied his last journey leave a permanent scar. The death and destruction that followed will be written alongside the name of the thespian in the pages of history. The only other time I had seen riots in Bangalore growing so much out of proposition as it has happened now was when Rajkumar was kidnapped by Veerappan. The law makers exactly knew what to expect but were simply incapable to handle it. This incident exposes the horrifying attitude of a section of fans of this cosmopolitan city. The same fans who were responsible for the fame and honor, gave a send off, with destruction and dishonor.