Singanalluru Puttaswamayya Muthuraju (24 April 1929 – 12 April 2006), known mononymously by his screen name Rajkumarand nicknamed Annavru, was an Indian actor and singer in the Kannada Cinema. Widely acclaimed as one of the finest actors in the history of Indian Cinema, he is considered a cultural icon, and holds a matinée idol status in the Kannada diaspora, among whom he is popularly adulated as Devataa Manushya (Godman), Bangarada Manushya (Golden Man), Karnataka Rathna (Jewel of Karnataka State), Vara Nata (Gifted Actor), Rajanna (Brother Raj), Nata Saarvabhouma (Emperor of Actors), Gaana Gandharva(Singer in the Court of Gods), Annavru (Beloved Elder Brother), Rasikara Raja (King of Romantic People), Vishwa Maanava(Universal Man) and much more.
A method actor, Rajkumar entered the film industry after his long stint as a dramatist with Gubbi Veeranna‘s Gubbi Drama Company, which he joined at the age of eight, and got his first break as a lead in the year 1954 film Bedara Kannappa, and went on to work in over 220 films, in the year 2000 super hit Shabdavedhi being the last acted movie. Well known for his highly disciplined and simple lifestyle in both personal and professional fronts, Rajkumar was also an avid Yoga, Pranayama and Carnatic music performer. He is also credited for being the only Indian Super Star who stayed away from acting the vicious acts of drinking, smoking and uttering swear words in all the roles he performed in his long spanning career of close to 50 years. At age 71, he was kidnapped from his farm house at Gajanur by Veerappan. He was released after 108 days. He died of cardiac arrest at his residence in Bangalore on 12 April 2006 at the age of 77.
In his film career, Rajkumar received eleven Karnataka State Film Awards, ten South Filmfare Awards, two National Film Awards and a National Film Award for Best Playback Singer for song “Naadamaya” . He received the NTR National Award in 2002. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Mysore, and is a recipient of the Padma Bhushan in 1983 and theDadasaheb Phalke Award in 1995 for the lifetime contribution to Indian Cinema.
Rajkumar was born on 24 April 1929 in Gajanur, Tamil Nadu. His father, Puttaswamayya and mother, Lakshmamma were impoverished theatre artists from Singanallur,present day Tamil Nadu. His father was good at playing roles like Kamsa, Ravana and Hiranyakashipu. He left his school when he was 8, who was later discovered by film producers and played tiny roles till he was 25 then he played his first lead in a feature film. Originally, he was named Mutturaja, after the Muthaththii Raya (a name for the Hindu deityHanuman), which is a temple deity located in Muthathi, a settlement on the banks of river Kaveri in present-day Karnataka.
Before acting in what would become his first film as a lead, Bedara Kannappa, he appeared in Sri Srinivasa Kalyana in 1952, as one of the seven Saptarishi (sages). It was an insignificant role, he remembered the scene was over before he recognized himself in the scene.
Rajkumar started his career with his father in a troupe led by Gubbi Veeranna. In 1953, he was spotted by film director H. L. N. Simha who was on lookout for well-built, pleasant-faced Bedara Kannappa. Simha eventually signed him for the film and christened him “Rajkumar”.
He acted only in Kannada apart from Sri Kalahastiswara Mahatyam in Telugu, a remake of Bedara Kannappa. He acted in 206 movies, excluding his guest appearance. He owned production company called Vajreshwari Production under banner Dakshayani Combines. Bhaagyada Baagilu was his 100th film, Devataa Manushyawas 200th film, and Shabdavedhi was last film.
His character depictions ranged from love to double and triple roles’, from action and mythological characters to portrayals of contemporary social causes in spanning over five decades. Rajkumar along with his contemporaries Udaya Kumar and Kalyan Kumar were “Kumara Thrayaru” of the Kannada cinema. He acted in 36 films with Udaya Kumar and in 5 films with Kalyan Kumar. The films presented a populist version of Karnataka’s history, focusing on the southern kingdoms from the Vijayanagara Empire and later to the intrigue and mystery of the Mysore royalty.
He made historical movies like Ranadheera Kanteerava, Kaviratna Kalidasa. He made movies from Kannada novels and made movies against perceived social evils likeShabdavedhi on drug abuse. He acted with heroines of southern cinema such as Jayanti (36 films), Pandaribai (18 films), Leelavathi (28 films), Bharati (28 films), Kalpana(19 films), Aarathi (13 films), B. Saroja Devi (10 films), Harini (11 films), Madhavi (6 films), Manjula (7 films), Jayamala (6 films), Lakshmi (5 films), Geetha (5 films), Saritha (5 films), Jayaprada (4 films). Bollywood actress Rekha made her debut in Operation Jackpotnalli CID 999 with him. He acted for south Indian directors from B.R. Pantulu andPuttanna Kanagal to Shankar Nag and T. S. Nagabharana. Chi. Udaya Shankar has written dialogues and songs for his 85 movies.
Rajkumar is the first Indian artist to enact a role of James Bond in Jedara Bale. Later, in Operation Jackpotnalli CID 999, Goadalli CID 999, and Operation Diamond Racketwhere he played roles chronicling the adventures of Prakash aka Agent CID 999, a James Bondesque superspy. Much of these films was made from the directors pair of Dorai and Bhagwan who began making spy flicks relatively later in their career, including Operation Diamond Racket.
He was trained Indian classical music in Gubbi Veeranna‘s drama troupe.. He performed a song in Mahishasura Mardini (this was picturised on actor Narasimharaju). However, he did not become a full-fledged singer till his song “Yare Koogadali” from Sampathige Sawal in 1974. Prior to this, Rajkumar’s songs were mostly sung by P. B. Srinivas. After which, he sang in most of his movies and in many private albums, which were mainly devotional albums. His song renditions ranged from pure classical to disco and fast numbers to pathos. His fans of the days of black-and-white movies in the 1960s and 1970s, believe he was actually P. B. Srinivas, who did the playback singing for most of Rajkumar’s movies, until Rajkumar himself started to sing. P. B. Srinivas continued singing for him in many of the movies in which Rajkumar starred in multiple roles.
His songs about Kannadigas, Kannada language and culture, such as “Jenina Holeyo” from Chalisuva Modagalu, “Maanavanagi Huttidmele” from Jeevana chaitra and “Huttidare Kannada Naadal Huttabeku” from the film Aakasmika. He sang a complete English song called “If You Come Today” (“Tick Tick Tick”) in one of his Bond films – Operation Diamond Racket in 1978. This song became an internet meme in India following Rajkumar’s demise in 2006.
In later years, he lent his voice to few actors and sang background solos. For the song Kannappa Kottanu, from Muddina Maava he provided playback to S. P. Balasubrahmanyam. This was a rare occasion. He sang Kalidasa shlokas like “Maanikya Veena” and ghazal based songs like “Sadaa Kannale”, “Kanneera Dhaare” and “Yaava Kaviyu”. In addition he sang devotional songs of Hanuman and Raghavendra.
Kannada language movement
Although Rajkumar rejected numerous offers to don the political mantle, he was able to influence the State’s political fortunes without ever being officially in politics. However, his apolitical outlook did not prevent him from protecting and espousing the cause of Kannada and Karnataka. He had time and again advocated the cause of seeking primacy to Kannada, and hence was asked to lead a movement about making Kannada a compulsory language for primary education based on the “Gokak report,” popularly known as Gokak varadhi. He became actively involved in the movement and soon became the force behind the Gokak movement. He took a rally from Belagavi to Bangalore and gave speeches about the importance of Kannada. Millions of people gathered only to have a glimpse of Rajkumar and listen to his speech. The movement became such a rage that the government relented and made Kannada a compulsory language of education in Karnataka.
Rajkumar was best regarded for being a highly disciplined man in both his personal and professional lives. He practised Carnatic music for an hour each in the morning and in the evening. His punctuality is another noted aspect. Waking up every morning at 4 am, he performed Yoga and Pranayama, which is said to be the reason behind his physical and mental fitness. His Yoga performances can be seen in the first clips of his film Kaamana Billu. Rajkumar is the first actor of the world cinema who had mastered Yoga.
He was the epitome of good character in most of his films. He shunned smoking and drinking both on screen and off. To avoid setting a precedent among his fans, he made sure that the roles he accepted did not require him to smoke or drink or utter swear words, and extended this decision to real life. His dress code always consisted of simple white dhoti and shirt. He spent most of his vacations in his hometown, Gajanur, near the forest area where he was later abducted.
He estimated producers as “Anna Daataru” (food providers) and adored fans as “Abhimaani Devarugalu“(Fan Gods).
He was a devotee of Raghavendra Swami.
Rajkumar married (Raja Gourava) Parvathamma, with her he had 5 children (two daughters and three sons). Two of his sons – Shiva Rajkumar and Puneet Rajkumar – have become actors in the Kannada film industry. His other son Raghavendra Rajkumar is an actor-turned-producer. And grandson (Raja Kusha) Vinay Rajkumar made his debut in 2015 movie Siddhartha. His two daughters are Lakshmi and Poornima.
On 30 July 2000, Rajkumar, his son-in-law Govindaraju, and two others were abducted by Veerappan from the actor’s palatial house at Gajanur ( Erode district of Tamil Nadu). Veerappan demanded 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 theKarnataka government into crisis. The Supreme Court of India opined that it was “unpardonable” on the part of the Government of Tamil Nadu for not providing security to Rajkumar, although they had information a year earlier that he faced a threat of being kidnapped by Veerappan. The Special Task Force (STF) set up to capture Veerapan had earlier warned Rajkumar against visiting the farmhouse, but his son Raghavendra Rajkumar later acknowledged that his father had not taken the threat seriously.
According to the Outlook magazine, there are many uncomfortable questions on the role played by the granite lobby in the whole kidnap and release of Dr. Raj. The granite mafia had links with Veerappan in the MM Hills region, and souring ties between them is said to have led to the abduction of Dr. Raj. Added to this mystery was the supposed links of Dr. Raj’s son Appu with the granite lobby. According to officers of the Department of Mines and Geology, Karnataka, Puneet’s name came up in 1995, when a raid was done on illegal quarries by the Kanakapura Police. Then the Minister for Mines and Geology M D Jayaram, of the H D Deve Gowda government had announced in the Karnataka Assembly, that Puneet was one of the many people who were raided. According to a Congress MLA, the matter was hushed up due to pressure exerted by the influential family. According to sources, Puneet owed the granite lobby 30–40 lakhs. These allegations were however denied by Appu.
The government then announced for its intention to make a memorial to Rajkumar at Kanteerava Studios at the cost ₹ 100 million. Later people as a tribute placed more than 50 statues which are spread across Bangalore.
Riots following death
His death precipitated a statewide reaction. Following the news of his death, there was major unrest in the city of Bangalore. The then Chief Minister, H. D. Kumaraswamy, later claimed that the violence was instigated by vested political interests. However the opposition blamed it on lack of timely arrangements by responsible organisations. An unofficialbandh (closure of all shops and other establishments) was announced. More than 1000 vehicles were burnt and eight people were killed in police firing. Several people attempted suicide after hearing of Rajkumar’s death; most of them were rescued. Around two million people followed his remains. Some of the unrest was caught on film during the “Outsourcing” episode of the Morgan Spurlock show 30 Days.
His death sparked large violence in Bangalore, with violent fans resorting to stone throwing and arson. The suburbs mainly affected were Bellary Road, Magadi Road, Sadashivanagar, and the Kanteerava Indoor Stadium. The violence led to nearly 25 police personnel being injured, OB vans of private Media channels and reporters being attacked, petrol bunk near Hudson Circle being burnt, etc. Stones and bottles were thrown on building and vehicles by the grieving fans. In order to prevent attacks, vehicle drivers put up posters of Rajkumar on their windscreens. The violence resulted in the death of 8 people, including a policeman, Manjunath Malladi (28 years old) who was lynched to death by the unruly mob. Hundreds of vehicles were damaged, including 20 police vehicles. About $40m losses were reported by software companies, as they had to shut down operations. The Bangalore Police arrested nearly 742 people for rioting, with most being identified from news footage and video clippings. Further the violence and police action resulted in more than 100 people being injured, which included many police personnel. 3 Petrol bunks were set on fire, 4 cinema halls burnt, 25 trucks parked in the Devraj Urs Terminal were destroyed. The Yeshwanthpur police station and the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police (North) office, which were located on the funeral procession path were completely ransacked with Police vehicles set on fire. The body which was kept at the Kanteerava Stadium for public viewing was moved at 12.30pm to the Kanteerava Film Studios for final rites, and the fans who had been waiting in line to pay respects and were denied a chance resorted to violence. The funeral procession itself was marred with violence, with fans trying to forcibly barge in.
The funeral procession covered K.R. Circle, Palace Road, T. Chowdiah Road, Cauvery Theatre Junction, Sadashivnagar, Yeshwantapur and Goraguntepalya, before reaching Kanteerva Studios. The fans stopped the cortege, and was allowed to proceed further after much pleading by Rajkumar’s sons. As a result of the violence, the CM H D Kumaraswamy and then Deputy CM Yediyurappa could not make it for the final rites. Parvathamma Rajkumar was also anguished as she was unable to see her husband’s body for the last time because of the chaos.
The book Bangarada Manushya, the chronicle of Rajkumar, is written by A. N. Prahlada Rao and was first released in 2005 in the presence of Rajkumar himself and ran into four editions. Baraguru Ramachandrappa called him as “Bevarina Manushya” (Successful man became by his hardwork and dedication). Besides recording his biography, it also explores his role of a singing star, and includes photographs from his films and other achievements.
The book has been translated into English by literary critic C.N. Ramachandran and journalist Alladi Jayashri and is titled as “Dr. Rajkumar: The Inimitable Actor With A Golden Voice“ and released by the actor’s wife Parvathamma Rajkumar in May 2008 at Bangalore. To mark the completion of 75 years of Kannada film industry, the book was released in New Jersey, United States on 10 May 2008.
Another book “Prana Padaka” written by A.N.Prahlada Rao, about Rajakumar, the Kannada Matnee idol. The book contains some of the exciting incidents as recalled by Smt. Parvathamma Rajakumar. The book was released on 7 October 2013 by Vijayakumar, President, Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce and K.S.L.Swamy, the senior Kannada Film Director and Producer.
Awards and honours
Rajkumar was awarded numerous State and National awards. He was a recipient of the Padma Bhushan, a doctorate from Mysore University, and the Karnataka Ratna, the highest civilian honour of the State of Karnataka, recognising him as a “Jewel of Karnataka State”. In 1995 he received the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award for his outstanding contributions to the Kannada film industry. In 2011, during the 83rd birth anniversary of Rajkumar, the Chief Minister of Karnataka announced that the state government is recommending Rajkumar for a Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award of the country for his outstanding contribution to the film industry.
National Film Awards
- 1963 – President Medal Best Actor for the movie Santa Thukarama
- 1992 – Best Male Playback Singer for the song “Naadamaya Ee Lokavella” from the movie Jeevana Chaitra
- 1995 – Dadasaheb Phalke Award
- 2002 – NTR National Award 
Filmfare Awards South
- Gandhada Gudi in 1973
- Mayura in 1975
- Shankar Guru in 1978
- Keralida Simha in 1981
- Shravana Banthu – 1984
- Adhe Kannu – 1985
- Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma – 1986
- Aakasmika in 1993
Total of 10 filmfare awards for best actor category.
Karnataka State Film Awards
- Rajkumar has won 13 Karnataka State Film Awards (9 for best actor, 2 for best singer, 1 lifetime achievement)
- 1967–68 – Bangaarada Hoovu
- 1970–71 – Kula Gourava
- 1974–75 – Bhakta Kumbara
- 1976–77 – Babruvaahana
- 1981–82 – Hosa Belaku
- 1982–83 – Haalu Jenu
- 1988–89 – Devatha Manushya
- 1992–93 – Jeevana Chaitra
- 1993–94 – Odahuttidavaru
- 1993–94 –Aakasmika – Huttidare Kannada Naadal Huttabeku
- 1994–95 – Thayi Illada Thavaru – Arishina kunkuma
Other Awards and Honours
- An honorary Doctorate from the Mysore University in 1976.
- Postal Stamps and Gold coins having the actor’s face were issued in 2009 by Central Government of India.
- More than 1100 statues of Rajkumar are placed in Karnataka. A statue in the Mayura touch placed in Basaveshwaranagar worth 10 million rupees.
- The Nadoja Award, an honorary Doctorate from Hampi University in 1999.
- Nine Karnataka State Film Awards in the Best Actor category.
- Two Karnataka State Film Awards in the Best Playback Singer category.
- Padma Bhushan in 1983.
- Karnataka Ratna in 1992 and Title: Nata Saarvabhouma in 1967 from the Government of Karnataka.
- Kentucky colonel, an honorary order from the governor of Kentucky, United States in 1985.
- “Vishwa Maanava” named by Kannada poet Kuvempu.
- Etv Kannadiga of the Year Award in 2003.
- A 6-kilometre (3.7 mi) road is named Dr. Rajkumar road. [The road stretches from government soap factory in Yeshwanthpur to Prasanna theater, Magadi road in Bangalore.]
On July 2005, government of Karnataka captioned by N. Dharam Singh, the Chief Minister of Karnataka conducted a felicitation ceremony for honoring Rajkumar for his (50 years of) services to Karnataka at Bangalore Palace named Sarthaka Suvarna (Meaningful 50 years). This ceremony was attended by the entire Kannada film industry marking respect and tribute to the legend, and could be called as an official celebration of Golden Jubilee of Rajkumar’s works and services to Kannada film industry.
At Kanteerava Studios, the Karnataka Government is setting up a memorial for Rajkumar at an estimated cost of ₹100 million. The blueprint of the memorial was constituted by a panel comprising Rajkumar’s family members, representatives of the Kannada film industry and the state government.
A permanent exhibition on the history of Rajkumar’s movies is also an integral part of this memorial. In respect of Rajkumar’s prolonged association with the studio, the actor’s trophies and souvenirs will be put up for exhibition at the memorial. It will also have a stock of movies, dialogue, scripts, songs and other memorabilia associated with the actor.The studio, located in Nandini Layout in the northern part of Bangalore, has become a pilgrim and tourist spot since Rajkumar’s death, with thousands of fans coming to pay homage to his memory. A calendar is released every year containing rare memorial photographs of Rajkumar and stills from his films. Dr Rajkumar Memorial was inaugurated on 29 November in presence of Rajinikanth, Chiranjeevi.