Rajkumar: We never wanted him to die
How old was I when I first saw a Rajkumar film? I must have been four years old. The movie I saw was the legendary Bangarada Manushya.
I was too young to understand that film. But he was looking so natural on the big screen. I understood one more thing that more than 800 people, who were watching him in the theatre, liked it a lot.
I could feel a great sense of satisfaction on their faces. It made me his instant fan and admirer. Apart from watching his movies with other family members, I started to collect his photographs. When I was just eight years old, there were more than 600 different Rajkumar pictures with me.
Rajkumar had a massive following among our areca and coffee estate labourers. They used to travel 30 to 40 kilometers to watch Annanvru's latest films on Saturdays. Some of them would cover that long distance on a bicycle!
They would tell us stories about his valour, generosity, great acting skills etc. Rajkumar cinema was the only entertainment these people had in the remote, hilly districts of my state. For them he was like a family member, a beloved elder brother.
My socialist father was very generous to give us money to watch Rajkumar movies. He never stopped me from going to movies with our labourers.
May be his socialist instincts didn't permit him to do so. Moreover, cinema was a great leveller during those pre-TV and CD days.
Before I turned 12, I had seen at least 50 of Rajkumar's movies. Starting from Hosa Belaku, Kasturi Nivasa, Gandada Gudi, Bahaddur Gandu, Kaviratna Kalidasa to Mayura. All of his great movies.
The biggest and most memorable day in my life came when I was 12 years old. Our hero came to my place. He was staying at the Century old British Bungalow located a few feet away from the roaring, beautiful Jogfalls, the second highest waterfalls in the world.
I still remember that evening. It was unusually cold. Darkness had already covered everything. The gentle sound of river water jumping into a deep valley provided a perfect play back music to the chirping of birds and the roaring of wild animals in the forest behind.
But there was no dearth of people. Thousands of his fans who waited all their life to have a glimpse of their Super Star had gathered outside the majestic, grand & massive building. Many of them had trekked 20 - 30 miles in the deep forest and undulating mountains.
My father asked me to say Namaskara. But I could do nothing. I was shivering. I was so excited. The sheer joy of standing before my hero had tied my tongue.
Unknowingly tears rolled upon my cheeks. My demi-god rajkumar hugged me and consoled me saying Chikka Huduga. Naachkondidane '(Small kid. He is shy). His words are still ringing in my ears.
I could feel his genuine warmth and affection in that gesture. That night we had the rare honour of having dinner with our icon. He posed for a photograph with us. I lost it a few years later. I still feel the loss.
Rajkumar got Dada Saheb Phalke award in 1996. I came to Bangalore to study, the next year. After that I met him on several occasions. Sometimes as a journalist and sometimes as his fan and admirer.
I was a young reporter, when he was abducted by Veerappan, six years ago. I covered all that happened during those 108 days. My reports had some level of depth and understanding.
I was one of the three or four lucky journalists who met him immediately after his release from the clutches of Veerappan. Rajkumar was brought to a farm house on the foothills of nilgiri mountains in erode district before he was flown to Bangalore.
As I entered his heavily guarded room, to my horror he greeted me in Tamil. His wife Parvathamma whispered into his ears ivru nammavaru Kannadalli maathnaadi (He is our man. talk to him in Kannada).
The frail looking icon apologetically said 'after 108 days in Veerappan's captivity, everybody looks like a Tamilian to me. I can't even recognize my own people'. That meeting left an indelible impression in my mind. From a child who was ready to do anything for a glimpse of him, to a journalist who was there to report his trauma to the entire state, I had traveled a long way with Rajkumar. For me it was a long journey indeed.
I met him several times after that. Physically, he was not the same Rajkumar. That nightmarish incident had clearly taken its toll on him. But mentally he remained the same. The same old beloved annavru.
He never harbored ill feelings towards anybody including Veerappan. He was the one who would always attribute everything to fate.
When the news of his sudden death hit me hard yesterday, all these thoughts came to my mind as a flashback. For us he was not a mere actor. He was a role model. Man of all virtues.
Simplicity and love personified. He was always there for Karnataka and its people. Entire state used to look at him whenever there was a crisis. Be it Cauvery dispute or primacy for Kannada and Kannadigas in the state. Rajkumar was there to lead us. For us he was the unacknowledged head of the state.
People outside Karnataka may not be able fathom why the death of an actor at the age of 77, brings entire state to halt. They may wonder why millions of people mourn throughout the day.
But for us, there is nothing unnatural in it. We are mourning the death of an elderly man in our own family. Now we have nobody of that stature to lead the state, during its difficult times. Nobody to instill confidence in the minds of millions of people. Nobody who can charm everybody cutting across all sections of society.
It is my firm belief that Rajkumar should n't be compared with anybody else in the country. He shouldn't be described as Big B of South. Not even with MGR or NTR. Perhaps the only thing they have in common is their unparalleled popularity.
Rajkumar is altogether different. Rajkumar was the unacknowledged chief minister of Karnataka. He was the most powerful public figure in Karnataka for fifty years. Elected rulers just rule the land. But the great people like Rajkumar rule the heart and mind of people.
With all luxuries of material life he lived the life of the simplest man. We never wanted him to die. He was divine in both his life and death. Karnataka will never be able see another Rajkumar. People like him born once in a Century.
When I visit my state next time, it will certainly look like a house, which has just lost its most affectionate headman.
More about D P SatishD P Satish has been a journalist for the past 14 years. Born at the picturesque Jog Falls in Shimoga district of Karnataka, Satish did his graduation in English Literature. He is a post-graduate in Journalism from the prestigious Asian College of Journalism, Bangalore (now in Chennai). After a brief stint with the Indian Express Group, he shifted to TV. He also worked for an American news magazine called ' Image '. He has widely travelled and covered some of the biggest events from South of Vindhyas in the first decade of the 21st century. He is passionate about English literature, classical music, cinema, history, photography, jazz and Cricket. A self-proclaimed centrist, Satish keenly follows major political developments from across the World. He blogs regularly and spends hours searching for readable material from the Internet! He belives that journalism is a calling and a person meant to be a journalist, can't escape from it. A hillman at heart and by birth, Satish lives and works in New Delhi. But, loves Bangalore more than Delhi!
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