SAGGERE RAMASWAMY writes from Bangalore: In my 25 years as a photojournalist, I met Dr Raj Kumar in person five times and learnt five things from him: simplicity, punctuality, dedication, respect (for others)—and the knack of enjoying food.
Other than those personal meetings, I had the occasion to cover many events of Raj Kumar. My first “Dr Raj” shoot was during the Gokak chaluvali at the Doddakere Maidan in Mysore in the early 1980s, when he, Vishnuvardhan and other stars were taking part in the agitation for primacy for Kannada.
Our first personal meeting was at the Kalamandira in Mysore in 1986. I walked in to the greenroom with my camera and was stunned to see Annavru. He was humming a ‘Dasara pada’.
Me: Saar, Namaskara.
Annavru: Namaskara… yenu nimma hesaru? (What’s your name?)
Me: Ramaswamy, saar
Annavru: Ramuswamy na, Ramaswamy na?
Me: Saar, Ramaswamy, saar
Annavru: aah, haage heli. Yava patrike?
Me: Mysore Mitra, saar, from the Star of Mysore group.
I took just a few pictures of the varanata that day as my film roll restricted my shooting, but I had the presence of mind to request his long-time bodyguard Channa (of the information department) to shoot a picture of the two of us together.
When he was awarded the Dada Saheb Phalke award in1995, Chetan Krishnaswamy, K. Gopinathan and I walked in to his residence at Sadashivanagar for an interview for Frontline magazine. Director Bhagawan, who fixed the meeting for us, was already there.
Raj Kumar stood up and said: “Banni, koothukolli’ (come, sit down). Bhagawan introduced us to him.
Without any hesitation, Raj Kumar said: “Frontline aa? English patrike, nanage English odoke barolla.” (Frontline? English magazine? I don’t know how to read English)
Today, on Dr Raj’s birth anniversary, I remember two things.
One, that he stood up and welcomed us.
And two, as I watched this video clip from his 104th film Amma (1968), his statement: “Nanage English odoke baralla.”
(Saggere Ramaswamy, worked with the Indian Express, The Hindu, and the world’s first technology daily, Tech Mail, before launching India’s first web-based photo syndication agency, Karnataka Photo News. He is also on the faculty of the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media in Bangalore.)
Also view: Dr Raj Kumar:If you come today, tomarrroww