May I touch your moustache please?

raj-kumar0002-1That’s what movie legend Rajkumar asked brigand Veerappan at the end of 108 days in captivity, reveals a documentary by Maya Chandra
When India’s most famous dacoit Veerappan decided to release Karnataka’s biggest movie icon Rajkumar from captivity, he asked him if he had any last wish.

Rajkumar gave him a reply that left him gaping in disbelief: “Could I touch your moustache please?”

That is among the many delightful bits of trivia you will find in Maya Chandra’s documentary Dr Rajkumar, Our Annavaru, screened at Badami House on Saturday.

Among those who spoke about the film were Rajkumar’s son Raghavendra, who recalled more endearing things about his legendary father.

When he asked Rajkumar if wild beasts had troubled him in the dense forests, he got this disarming answer, “We humans are the biggest beasts, child! I wasn’t in the least troubled by any animal.”

Raghavendra said Rajkumar was always ready to share his joy, but would keep his pain to himself. He resisted surgery, saying, “This body is like a car. You meddle with it here and something goes wrong there!”img_1087

In the last 30 days of his life, he got up early, walked around energetically despite chronic pain in his knee, and went about his day as if he were at the peak of his acting career. He was then 72. “I want you to remember me that way,” he told his family, and went and slept in the drawing room. He would often shun comforts, such as an air-conditioned room, Raghavendra told the audience of writers, journalists, movie crew, and a couple of diehard, front-bench fans who cheered and clapped in defiance of the academic gravitas of the evening.

The documentary is well made, and delineates the life and times of one of India’s most influential movie stars.

But it does tend to lean towards the eulogistic, as Sugata Srinivasaraju, assistant editor of Outlook said before the screening. He warned against using Rajkumar to promote Kannada exclusivism (which might be an oxymoron, since it is difficult to find a Kannadiga who does not know at least two languages!)
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Maya Chandra brings the slickness of her corporate film craft to this documentary,

 

and it works well in combination with the effusive affection of people she interviews. Among the many celeb fans is Amitabh Bachchan, who says suitably humble things about his association with Rajkumar (but what is glossed over is that, at one point, he was furious that Raj fans had blocked the release of Hindi films in Bangalore).
Vishu Kumar, director of the Karnataka information department and an admirer of the star like almost everyone in the audience, spoke about the negative perception about the actor that fan vandalism had created among non-Kannadigas.

The documentary, yet to be released commercially, is narrated by movie star Ramesh Aravind. Among its best parts are the interviews with Rajkumar’s moviedom colleagues, such as Vishnuvardhan, director Bhagwan, and lyricist Jayant Kaikini.

Other delights include footage from some of Rajkumar’s hit movies, and at least for me, the songs that Maya uses to bind together montages from his movies. Rajkumar brought the energy and rigour of theatre music to the movies, and three years after his death, my jaded journalistic heart soars every time I hear my favourite Rajkumar songs.

G N Mohan, who runs Mayflower Media House, was the moving spirit behind the event. As for the Veerappan moustache incident, Kaikini says in the film that it shows Rajkumar’s childlike curiosity, and also his motherly concern: he asked, after he came back alive, when his captor Veerappan would be saved.
Courtesy: S R Ramakrishna,MidDay

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