Caught up as our cinema biographers usually are with Bollywood, there isn’t much scholarly work on Dr Raj Kumar in English. But, sitting in faraway Chicago and San Francisco, Dr Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi of the Land of Lime has over the last couple of years managed to fill the breach somewhat.
“A long time ago, Raj Kumar had transcended being an ordinary mortal, a mere human being. He represented and more importantly authored, (along with his scriptwriters, filmmakers and fellow actors) a vision of what life could be and ought to be. The name Raj Kumar came to indicate this collective persona, rather than just the person; make no mistake, the person was the driving force yet all these others contributed substantially to the making of Raj Kumar.
“His films and in particular, the characters he played, always tried to present a rationale for why we should be good. Be it the tragic hero of Kasturi Nivasa or sacrificing hero of Bangarada Manushya who cared for others before considering his own comfort or the honest forest officer in Gandhada Gudi or the rustic, rebel of Sampattige Saval. Or consider his historical characters, Krishnadevaraya or Mayura or Ranadhira Kanthirava, all of which presented a robust, strong and dignified conception of a self confident Kannada culture and community.
“Then the devotional characters, beginning with Bedara Kannappa and then on to Bhakta Kumbara and many, many other devotional films, which captured and made relevant for the present the best of vernacular devotional traditions. The memorable mythologicals, Babhruvahana, Bhakta Prahlada and Satya Hariscandra, all of which focused on the distinguishing virtue of the hero and dramatically focused on the consequences of holding on to that virtue. Finally, the romantic hero of films such as Premada Kanike or Naa Ninna Mareyalare, who offered visions of what it meant to be true to a feeling and an ideal.”
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