Friday, April 14, 2006

Curtains Down..

A void feeling which is hard to describe…

Phones and E-mails with my Karnataka friends has only one topic. As I talk with my parents back in Bengalooru, I can sense that same sad feeling in their voice too. A feeling of losing someone close. Mom says ‘Rajkumar hogbitta’ (Raj Kumar dead)

Do any of us know him personally? Did we ever meet him?
Answer to these questions is ‘No’. But still why we are feeling that something is missing?

A little flashback here…
I think those were the days when I was in my early years of primary school. There is a small theatre ‘Shobha’ in Harihar. We had an occasionally visiting grand mother to our home. Whenever that grand mother visited our home, it meant one thing…movie time, to be specific Rajkumar movie time. Was it because Shobha was just 5 minutes walk from our home or was it because it used to show mostly Raj Kumar movies, I don’t know, but I, grand mother & mom used to end up there frequently for a Raj Kumar movie.

On the screen, while Raj was sparkling on the screen as Sri Krishna, a devotional feeling sparkling in grand mom’s eyes as if Lord Krishna himself has appeared. When Raj donned that energetic role of Babruvaahana or Mayoora, one can sense that feeling of pride sweeping the theatre. Me and my dad watching Raj's action kind of movies such as 'Shankar Guru' and enjoying those whistles and claps whenever Raj making an entry. Those discussions over dinner about the movie and most of it about Raj.

Like me, I think many of us grew watching the movies of Raj. Those were the days when one whole generation was under the strong influence of Raj’s charisma.

There was one of my cousin who was a huge fan of Raj and when Raj visited Davangere, somehow he managed to get him photographed with Raj. I still remember how much he beamed with happiness whenever he talked about that photo and how he went on forever describing how simple is Raj in real life.

My brother too was a huge fan and he had once written a short story of about 2 pages. The specialty of that story was all the words used were nothing but names of all the Raj’s movie names!!!

As I grew, I started realizing that Raj also had an awesome voice. Suddenly everywhere there were songs sung by Raj. In parties, marriages, school functions, college functions & even in temples, everywhere.

I sometimes wonder how Raj became the supreme and how he got so much fan following.Unlike few other superstars in South India, I think he never had any fan clubs funded by him.

Raj never feared to experiment with the roles. Mythological characters, family man, lover boy, comic character and even he played ‘James Bond’ kind of a role.Fans loved him in any avaatar.

No doubt, Raj was an amazing actor. But what stroked the chord was his real life persona, which matched his reel characters. Forget real life, even on screen, Raj never did smoking or drinking. Almost whole Karnataka knew about his famous daily routine of getting up at 4 in the morning and doing Yoga.

His roles were inspirational and always carried some social messages. It seems many college graduates went back to their villages to take up agriculture after seeing that ‘Rajeev’ character Raj played in ‘Bangaaradha Manushya’. His role in ‘Jeevana Chaitra’ fueled the anti-liquor fight and it seems many stopped drinking alcohol after seeing the movie.

I have heard many times, ladies discussing the roles which Raj portrayed. Often I overheard saying comments such as ‘magaa idhrey Rajkumar taraa irabeku’ (If there is a son, he should be like RajKumar).True, he donned the roles of ideal son, ideal husband, ideal lover, ideal father. And what appealed to mass was the fact that even in real life he was the same ideal person.

Whenever Raj was bestowed an award, the whole Karnataka used to rejoice as if each one of us got that award. The 2 national awards, 9 filmfares, 9 state awards, Padma Bhushan, Dada Sahib Palke award, a honorary doctorate, Karnataka Ratna… never stopped raining accolades.

As time progressed, the same Raj started appearing little amused to our generation. We started admiringly mock his dance steps and his trademark dialogues in a humorous way. Make no mistake, Raj was still the best.

Still as years rolled by, we realized that Raj like every other person also started growing old. Though everyone wanted to see Raj back on screen, it was evident that his health may not allow Raj to do it again.

Coming back to Raj’s popularity…
The actual reason Raj was liked was the fact that he stood as the proud symbol of Karnataka and Kannada. He actively participated in few movements without which the state of Kannada would have been still worse. I read that Raj literally crisscrossed Karnataka during the Gokak chaLuvaLi, which became major success mainly because of Raj. It was the biggest showcasing of how much the public loved him.

But I think biggest thing which made people bestow their love and affection on him was the thing that he never entered politics, despite being lured all the time. I read he could have become Chief Minister if he wanted. He even had a Chief Minister as relative but Raj managed to remain far from the politics.

It was natural that when somebody of such stature passed away, the emotions would run high. It was also natural that there would be frooglepoopillion grief and sorrow, inspite of knowing that nobody can escape the death. But what was shocking was the rampage which followed aftermath.

Raj’s so-called fans have been creating much embarrassment to Raj off-late. My first memory of such unruly fans behaviors was during a release of a new Raj movie several years back. All Raj fan clubs had taken out a huge procession on the day the movie got released and during procession somebody threw stone on the procession and rest it went bersek.

Next major disturbance was during those days when Raj was kidnapped. I remember we were in engineering and next few days were very tense. The whole of Karnataka was restless in those 108 days when Raj was under captivity. It also showed the glimpse of things to come if something happens to Raj. Atleast in all these cases, there was some provocation.

Call it mob hysteria, planned provocation, mismanagement or whatever… but I don’t understand this case. When Raj was supposed to be given a peaceful & heartfelt farewell, how come the so called fans got into such lawlessness. When the whole state was mourning, how come some one can get into such rowdy acts of burning vehicles, buses & properties? How about those 8 lives which got wasted in the mayhem…

(I’m using the phrase ‘so called fans’ here because I don’t think these people are any fans at all. Any true fan who knew about Raj’s life can never get into such horrifying acts)

Poor Raj’s soul would have been weeping silently, seeing all this frenziness which happened in his name…

May Almighty rest ‘aNNaavara’ soul in peace