SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: Having been in Bangalore in the past month, for reasons personal, for more days than my mind can handle, I called up an old friend who is quite an aficionado of Kannada films who suggested that we drive over to the Kanteerava Studios where the samadhi of the great Raj Kumar is situated. The idea excited me and soon we were on our way.
As I manoeuvred my jeep through traffic that seemed to make the chaos and panic of the great wilderbeest migration across the vast plains of Tanzania look like an abacus session taught by a loving matron in the neighbourhood kindergarten, my mind travelled to the days when Raj Kumar held sway over the consciousness of millions of Kannadigas with his legendary acting skills, charm, radiance, humility and the sheer weight of his rare personality.
My friend and I were quite animated in our reminiscences of the Kannada films of old: the gentility, the refinement and the social values the stories mirrored, and the sheer intensity and class of some of the actors, as also the directors, notably the redoubtable Puttanna Kanagal and the iconic Raj Kumar.
In some time, we pulled up at the samadhi of the great man.
What my eyes took in was not what my mind had imagined. It was a bit of a shock really. A let down which stung instantly.
Nowhere in the vicinity of the marble-mounted platform under which lay the mortal remains of one of the greatest ever Kannadigas, was there even a semblance of solemn order.
A man whose depth of urbane thought and sophistication of speech, not to speak of his fantastic acting skills, quite mysteriously belied his absolutely rustic upbringing in a non-descript village of complete remoteness in the vicinity of the jungles bordering Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, totally devoid of any thing remotely scholastic, considering that he didn’t attend school beyond the third standard; lay in a grave around which buzzed a million flies that had taken up residence because of the multitude of food carts selling masala puri, churumuri and an assortment of cut fruits in the vicinity, with the attendant garbage being generously generated.
The scene was that of a garish village fair with urchins hawking ground nuts and cigarettes, men and women and children, mostly from rural Karnataka, walking about in complete disorderliness, a few men of indeterminable avocations lazing around on the unkempt grass, either smoking beedies or gazing into space, women selling flowers of all shapes and sizes and colours and in different stages of wither mainly due to the unrelenting sun, with a few men even relieving themselves not too far from the hallowed grave, on whose top had been mounted a most inartistically designed canopy with a slope on either side.
A pathetic thatched hut-like contraption stood pitched just a few feet away, its cheap wooden shelves selling audio and video compact discs of Raj Kumar’s films. A sound track belted in almost indistinct clarity, assorted dialogues of the actor from a random selection of his films.
It’s not my point that film actors have to be perpetuated for posterity through the building of impressive tombs that should match the mausoleums of ancient India with their elaborate decorations.
But the state government having decided to do one for one of the rarest actors of the country and a true Kannada idol who led a life clearly based on the tenets of decency and probity, should have shown the sincerity of purpose in creating a true resting place for the great man where you could expect a sense of tranquil dignity and sobriety in the air around.