Google on Monday honoured one of the finest actors of Indian film industry, Dr Rajkumar, on his 88th birthday with a doodle. The search engine giant had a special doodle that shows the legendary actor on a big screen as the audience watch on. He was not just an actor, he was a gifted playback singer too. He enjoys a demigod status among the people of Karnataka, cutting across generations. Even today his old films are digitally spruced up and re-released to packed houses across Karnataka, giving today’s actors a run for their money.
His film legacy is being carried forward by his sons — Shivarajkumar, Raghavendra and Puneeth. While Shiva and Puneeth are the leading stars of Kannada cinema, Raghavendra is mainly into producing films.
Here are some must-know facts about the beloved actor:
1) Rajkumar, the cultural icon of Kannada film industry, was born on April 24, 1929, in Gajanur, it was home for Kannada-speaking population in the erstwhile Madras Presidency, present day Erode district in Tamil Nadu.
2) Rajkumar was named Singanalluru Puttaswamayya Muthuraju by his parents. He dropped out of school when he was eight and began acting in plays with his father Puttaswamayya, who was a member of troupe led by Gubbi Veeranna.
3) Rajkumar landed his first film as a lead actor with director H. L. N. Simha’s Bedara Kannappa, which came out in 1953. Before it became a motion picture, Bedara Kannappa was a play which was produced by the Gubbi Veeranna Nataka Company. It is considered as one of the landmark films in the history of Kannada cinema. Simha is the one who rechristened Singanalluru Puttaswamayya Muthuraju as Rajkumar.
4) In his decorated career, Rajkumar has acted in more than 220 films. but barring Telugu film Kalahasti Mahatyam, a remake of Bedara Kannappa, he has not acted in any other languages.
5) Rajkumar was known for his historical roles in films such as Bhakta Kanakadasa (1960), Ranadheera Kanteerava (1960), Satya Harishchandra (1965), Immadi Pulikeshi (1967), Sri Krishnadevaraya (1970), Bhakta Kumbara (1974), Mayura (1975) and Babruvahana (1977) among others.
6) Rajkumar had his own spy film series called CID 999 franchise in the 1960s. Jedara Bale was one of the first James Bond-esque films in India. The resounding success of the film inspired three more films in the franchise — Goa Dalli CID 999 , Operation Jackpot Nalli C.I.D 999 and Operation Diamond Racket.
7) Rajkumar was awarded the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1995 for his unparalleled contribution to the Kannada film industry. He had won several states, national and international recognitions, including National Awards and honorary Doctorate by Mysore University.
8) Rajkumar could have swept the polls any day if he had joined the politics in Karnataka. But, he stayed away from politics. However, the kind of power and influence he enjoyed among the people came to fore during Gokak agitation in the 1980s. He led a rally from Belagavi to Bengaluru and gave speeches on the importance of teaching Kannada in state schools. Millions turned up to his rallies, forcing the government to fulfill his demands.
9) On 30 July 2000, slain bandit Veerappan abducted Rajkumar along with his other relatives from his palatial house at Gajanur. The incident shook the nation, resulting in a volatile situation in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. However, he was released unharmed after 108 days of captivity.
10) Rajkumar died at 77 from a cardiac arrest at his Bengaluru residence on 12 April 2006. The incident sparked a large-scale violence across the state. His family donated his eyes after his death.