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Exploring a phenomenon called Rajkumar

Alladi Jayasri

Literature on the man who achieved so much is surprisingly scarce


  • Rajkumar dominated the Kannada industry for 50 years
  • A critical analysis of the Dr. Rajkumar is yet to be made

    BANGALORE: Literature on the "Bangarada Manushya" who strode the field of Kannada cinema like a colossus, exploring the impact of Rajkumar on an industry that he dominated for 50 years, is surprisingly scarce for a man who has achieved the status of a demi-god when alive and has come too be deified after he is no more.

    Though the thespian has a fan following that knows the trivia about him and there is an entire generation of Dr. Rajkumar fans that knows him mostly through television, serious students of cinema and researchers have missed out on him.

    Dr. Rajkumar as the subject of serious study, or the protagonist of a biographical sketch, or a critical analysis of the Dr. Rajkumar phenomenon has not engaged as many researchers as it ought to have done.

    But it is a daunting task to sift "Rajkumarayana" from Kannada cinema to find enough to document any aspect of filmdom without a reference to the thespian cropping up, says A.N. Prahlada Rao, who authored "Bangarada Manushya" a biography, in 2005 to mark 50 years of Dr. Rajkumar in Kannada cinema.

    Mr. Prahlada Rao, an officer in the State Information Department, is a veritable encyclopaedia on Kannada cinema, has been collecting trivia and all information on Dr. Rajkumar for over 30 years.

    He had hoped to publish "Bangarada Manushya" in 2003, when Dr. Rajkumar turned 75, as a series for film magazines, but the media overkill on the star in the aftermath of his kidnapping by Veerappan had still not waned, and Mr. Rao's tome remained unpublished.

    The 50-year milestone in Dr. Rajkumar's acting career then provided an opportunity as the Government decided to celebrate the occasion last year, and Mr. Rao's book became a commemorative volume for "Sarthaka Suvarna".

    The latest book, and the most comprehensive among the half-a-dozen books on Dr. Rajkumar, had received favourable reviews as a book that balances the persona and the phenomena of Dr. Rajkumar.

    The earliest writings on Dr. Rajkumar is "Ondu Kathanayakana Kathe" a narration by Dr. Rajkumar, as told to Chi. Sadashivaiah, which appeared as a serial in "Vijayachitra," a film monthly of the publishers of the popular "Chandamama."

    The story never got completed, and the series ended abruptly, when Sadashivaiah died.

    There was another series of articles in "Prajavani," nearly 30 years ago, authored by the then Chennai-based film journalist T.G. Srinivasa Murthy, but if there were plans to bring them out in book form, they never materialised.

    When the film "Bangarada Manushya" ran super-successfully for a year, a souvenir was brought out on the movie, the actor, and incidents associated with it.

    More recently, a book titled "Rajkumar" was authored by V. Nagaraja, and some years ago, the Karnataka Chalanachitra Patrakartara Parishat published a slim volume "Dr. Rajkumar" as part of a series of several books. It was written by Shyamasundar Kulkarni. Another book "Varanata" has been written by Jagannatha Rao Bahule, apart from souvenir volume when Dr. Rajkumar was honoured with the Padma Bhushan, titled "Padma Bhushan Rajkumar -Abhinandane".

    It is unfortunate that a two-volume treatise on Kannada cinema written by three front-ranking Kannada film journalists for the Kannada University at Hampi was withdrawn by the university itself on the ground that factual errors and bias had crept into it.

    One lakh copies of the book have piled up, a colossal waste of research, scholarship and precious paper.

    Though the other books celebrate Dr. Rajkumar, and his iconic status, a book that places Kannada cinema and Dr. Rajkumar's status in historic perspective is yet to be written.

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