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
the knack of enjoying food..
He never ate his favorite food, naati koli & others, on screen !!
Saggere Ramaswamy is so lucky to have seen Dr. Raj in person. Dr. Raj is the legend. Thanks for sharing this with us.
Hi Saggere, thanks for the memories. I, and a colleague, was once invited to dinner at the erstwhile Lohit Farm (later renamed Punith Farm) on Mysore Road, for simple fare of bisi bele baath and mosaru anna. He greeted us at the door.
On another note, I also had the privilege of eating the same fare at Puttana Kanagal’s house. We sat on his terrace in the open air and ate while discussing his movies.
I can’t imagine how lucky I am to have shared a meal with two of Kannada filmdom’s giants. Though they were so great, they had the humility that only the truly gifted possess.
Yes, that is what makes a person to be liked by crores of people – not just because he is a good actor or star.
Dr. Raj was a giant among men. He cared too much about being a good person, and that mattered more to him than being a good actor, to let cinema restrict him. Those of us who have seen him on the silver screen know him as a man of sterling character. From those who have met him, we know his golden heart. It is a heart that reached far and wide, way beyond the confines of a state or a language or even creed. This Tamizhan who has always been a fan of Doc, salutes the master.
The silly Brits are doing their stupid Royal Family worship and we are still indulging in our corpse salutations.
Dr Raj had excellent manners both on and off-screen. We have yet to see an actor who is a thorough gentleman as Dr. Raj. It is a treat to watch him and listen to his kannada, so gentle, simple, clear and pleasing.
It is high time we stopped singing hosannas for Rajanna and objectively look at the omissions and commissions committed by him during his long tenure in the film industry. We can start by investigating into the controversy of why vishnuvardhan and dwarakish were hounded out of Bangalore by Annavara Fans association headed by Sa.Ra.Govindu and made to live in madras for better part of their lives and what was Rajanna’s and Smt.Parvathamma’s role in this.
Veerappan had the privilage of being with him for 100 days.
Namma Kannada Meshtru ….. an epitome of impeccable manners