It is unlikely if a non-Kannadiga will ever understand the Dr Raj Kumar phenomenon, but it wouldn’t hurt to try.
Unlike Amitabh Bachchan, he was not the star of the millennium, ubiquitous in movies, songs, ads, commercials, stage events, voice-overs, documentaries, etc.
Unlike NTR and MGR, he never tried to extract his box office appeal at the ballot box, although he could well have and many political parties did try.
Unlike Prem Nazir, he did not act in hundreds of films, just a couple of hundred of them in a long career spanning nearly five decades.
Unlike Kamal Hassan, Rajnikanth and Chiranjeevi, he never tried his hand at other south Indian languages.
Unlike his own colleague and compatriot, Vishnuvardhan, he never ventured into Bollywood.
Unlike Naseeruddin Shah and Shah Rukh Khan, he was never very comfortable in English and rarely ever tried to explain the secret of his craft.
But, to see star after star of Kannada filmdom sob and cry and to launch into adjectives, and to see them sob and cry again as they fall short of words to explain, to understand the passing of a legend is a small lesson in what an abstract thing genuine superstardom is.
Stardom that transcends the ordinary and nearly touches the divine.
On television, older stars like Vishnuvardhan are saying that as long as the sun and moon exist, Dr Raj’s name will shine on and be synonymous with our language and its culture. “Dr Raj was Kannada; without him Kannada won’t exist,” he says.
On television, younger stars like Ramesh Aravind are talking of how it seems as if every family in the whole State and beyond seems to have all lost the head of the family, all at the same time. “Without him, Kannada filmdom would be nothing,” he says.
On television, T.N. Seetharam is saying how the State, the language and its culture have lost their moral compass that has also had social moorings.
On television, the Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy is saying how there will never be another Dr Raj Kumar ever again.
But even these fail to convey the true significance of a life, a legend.
The numbers tell a small story. An oeuvre of 205 films. A career of 45 years. Ten Filmfare awards. Nine State awards for best actor. A national award for singing. Padma Vibhushan. Dada Saheb Phalke award. Etcetera.
But all of these fade in front of the big ‘D’ that Dr Rajkumar brought to the screen and more importantly, off it.
D for decency.
Decency in his choice of films and topics.
Decency in his public and private conduct.
Decency in the manner in which he accepted victory and defeat.
Decency virtually in the manner in which he went about things.
This decency, in a profession that has very little of it; this decency, in an industry that could do with a lot of it; this decency that is inherent in the average Kannadiga is what tied annavru subliminally to his countless fans.
It is this subliminal connect that is behind the tears.
It is this subliminal connect that makes it difficult to believe.