He was the epitome of "Decency" in a world where the power and popularity made people forget their humility and sense of balance. He was the "hiriyaNNa" (elder brother), to whom generations of Kannadigas looked up to to gain a sense of what is right. With his passing, kannadigas have lost a moral compass. I pray that in this moment of sadness, Kannadigas take a moment to reflect on his life and what he taught us by the way of his actions - both on-screen and off it.
Writers better than me have very poignantly expressed the loss we feel today.
Perhaps the biggest cultural icon for Kannadigas, he represented the best of Kannada culture through his personal conduct and art. Karnataka chief minister Kumara Swamy said it best a few months ago. In an interview just before he assumed office, Kumara Swamy said Bangarada Manushya (possibly Raj Kumar’s best film) taught him how to be a good human being. That’s what each of his 205 films did: offer a moral compass to his audience, his abhimani devarugalu (fans who are like gods).
An unlikely superstar, Dr. Raj Kumar wore his fame and popularity with ease and humility. In his personal conduct and films, he embodied civility and decency. What he didn’t do with his iconic status is equally significant; unlike his contemporaries, he didn’t seek to parlay his popularity into political power nor was he ever known to enter into shady deals for personal benefit.
As we mourn the passing away of a good man, here is what I want to remember. He asked us to be good, decent human beings. And he often showed the way.
It is unlikely if a non-Kannadiga will ever understand the Dr Raj Kumar phenomenon, but it wouldn’t hurt to try.
Unlike Amitabh Bachchan, he was not the star of the millennium, ubiquitous in movies, songs, ads, commercials, stage events, voice-overs, documentaries, etc.
Unlike NTR and MGR, he never tried to extract his box office appeal at the ballot box, although he could well have and many political parties did try.
Unlike Prem Nazir, he did not act in hundreds of films, just a couple of hundred of them in a long career spanning nearly five decades.
Unlike Kamal Hassan, Rajnikant and Chiranjeevi, he never tried his hand at other south Indian languages.
Unlike his own colleague and compatriot, Vishnuvardhan, he never ventured into Bollywood.
Unlike Naseeruddin Shah and Shah Rukh Khan, he was never very comfortable in English and rarely ever tried to explain the secret of his craft.
But, to see star after star of Kannada filmdom sob and cry and to launch into adjectives, and to see them sob and cry again as they fall short of words to explain, to understand the passing of a legend is a small lesson in what an abstract thing genuine superstardom is.
Stardom that transcends the ordinary and nearly touches the divine.
But all of these fade in front of the big ‘D’ that Dr Rajkumar brought to the screen and more importantly, off it.
D for decency.
Decency in his choice of films and topics.
Decency in his public and private conduct.
Decency in the manner in which he accepted victory and defeat.
Decency virtually in the manner in which he went about things.
This decency, in a profession that has very little of it; this decency, in an industry that could do with a lot of it; this decency that is inherent in the average Kannadiga is what tied annavru subliminally to his countless fans.
It is this subliminal connect that is behind the tears.
It is this subliminal connect that makes it difficult to believe.
(Also check out pebblesthrow.blogspot.com)
May his soul rest in peace.