I have had the golden opportunity of watching Dr. Raj Kumar from my age of 10 years due to my father’s close association with the veteran superstar. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to supervise his Physiotherapy sessions at HOSMAT Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Hospital in Bengaluru during 1995, when he had developed severe ankle pain in one of his feet. He used to recollect his interactions with my father and how he missed his native place Gajanur. Parvathamma had also narrated me an interesting episode (which took place 5-6 years before they got married) when Raj Kumar gifted her a pair of ear rings (lolaks) since her mother had removed her golden ear rings,” recalls Dr.Veena Bharathi in this article on the occasion of Annavru’s 15th death anniversary held on Apr. 12 and 93rd birth anniversary which is on Apr.24. —Ed
By Dr. Veena Bharathi
Our family’s association with Gajanur’s “Mannina Maga” Dr. Raj Kumar dates back to the early 1950s. My father Aswathanarayan was a film exhibitor in Chamarajanagar, which is about 15 miles from Gajanur, Dr. Raj Kumar’s birth place. Whenever Raj Kumar and his father Singanallur Putaswamaiah staged dramas in Chamarajanagar in the early 1950s, my father would play host and make sure that their drama troupe did not get on to the stage on an empty stomach. Raj Kumar used to relish the set dosas of ‘Pacchappa’s Hotel’ in Chamarajanagar !!
I was fortunate to have had the golden opportunity of visiting Gajanur, when I was about 15 years of age, during the shooting of “Sampathige Savaal” Kannada movie, in the mid-1970s accompanying my father. Raj Kumar and Parvathamma had sought the advice of my father to detect water sources, in order to dig borewells in Gajanur.
Also at least twice or thrice in a year, my father used to take our family to the Premier Studios in Mysore, where Raj Kumar would be shooting, like it was during his 100th movie “Bhaagyada Baagilu” and also during the picturisation of “Raaja Nanna Raaja” movie.
It was 1990 — April. Dr. Raj Kumar’s sixty-first birthday ! I was in my eighth month of pregnancy. I got a phone call from Parvathamma Raj Kumar “Veenavre, neevu haagu nimma yajamanru, ee bhanuvaara ivara (Dr. Raj’s) huttida habbakke barale beku, ille oota maada beku! [Veena, you and your husband should attend Dr. Raj Kumar’s birthday this Sunday and must have dinner too!].” When we attended the function at the Lawns of their Sadashivanagar residence, Parvathamma and Raj Kumar had profusely thanked us, and ‘Akkavru’ (Parvathamma)had gifted me a dozen green bangles and a mega fruit bowl as a tradition of ‘madilu tumbuvudu” for a pregnant woman !
1993 — May. I got a phone call from Parvathamma, “Dr. Veena, today evening, we have taken appointment at ‘HOSMAT’ Hospital so that ‘ivru’ (Dr. Raj) be checked by orthopaedic doctor, Dr. Thomas Chandy. If you can be with me during Annavru’s check-up, it will provide me a sort of mental strength !” I also was told by her that Dr. Raj Kumar had just then finished a marathon shooting and dubbing schedule for the Kannada movie “Aakasmika.” Since it was quite a long and committed schedule, the then 64-year-old veteran actor had started experiencing an on and off pain in his right knee and the heel.
At that time, my husband Dr. Kishore Murthy was the Chief Administrator of “HOSMAT” Hospital. I had reached the hospital half an hour earlier than the VIP-outpatient appointment given to Dr. Raj.
As I had coffee and snacks (which my husband had arranged to serve to Raj Kumar and family as a mark of reverence to the legend) with Dr. Raj, Parvathamma, daughter Poornima and young Puneeth, hardly conscious of his exceptional celebrity status, Dr. Raj was greeting everyone from the ward boy to the Nurse, who came to touch his feet, seeking his blessings! Despite the pain in his joints, Dr. Raj was pleasantly smiling and praised Dr. Thomas Chandy for setting up such a unique hospital for Orthopaedics and Sports’ Medicine. [“Bekitthu, bekitthu, Bengalurige ee tarahada aaspatre bekaagittu!” were the veteran’s words].
Later on, after a series of medical tests, Dr. Raj Kumar was advised to undergo physio-therapy twice a week, for an entire month’s duration. Thus opened the “Bhaagyada Baagilu” (Door of fortune) for me, since I had to be present at ‘HOSMAT’ hospital on Mondays and Thursdays to supervise the physiotherapy sessions of the Kannada movie land’s “One Man Industry”!
Physiotherapist Mini Jacob and myself had the opportunity to spend nearly an hour with the Thespian, as each session of physiotherapy lasted for fifty minutes. I used to monitor the sessions, enquiring Dr. Raj about his pain — tolerance for the remedial exercises, quantum of recovery and any other session — related needs during those fifty minutes.
After one such physiotherapy session, when I accompanied Dr. Raj to the VIP guest chamber, Dr. Raj had made my 3-year-old son Yashas sit on his lap and heartily had told the child — “Putta, when your mother was of your age, she had sat on my lap at the Premier Studios! Now, the most pleasantly surprising fact is that your mother is a doctor and I am a patient!” I had felt literally on cloud nine when such a recollection was told to my son by a man of quintessence.
In 2004, Dr. Raj Kumar underwent a minor surgery at ‘HOSMAT’ Hospital for the pain in his right heel. When I visited the ‘Natasaarva Bhowma’ on his third post operative day, I pre- sented him with a silver Hanuman idol. Because, when I had gone to console Parvathamma during the superstar’s kidnap episode in the year 2000, Parvathamma had told me “My husband was born (as she was told by Raj’s mother) after my mother-in-law prayed to God Hanuman at Mutthathi incessantly. That’s why my husband’s name at birth is Muthu Raj !”
When I again went to interview Parvathamma in 2007 (for the Sunday Herald of Deccan Herald, on the occasion of Raj Kumar’s first Punyatithi) she told me a very interesting episode: “When I was seven years of age, my mother had gone to Kannambadi (KRS), her maternal home for delivery when my younger brother Srinivas was born. Raj Kumar and his father were camping in Chamarajanagar as part of Gubbi Veeranna’s drama troupe. I was at my grandfather’s village in Yediyuru. Raj Kumar’s father asked him (we were related to each other before our marriage also) to bring me to Chamarajanagar on the bicycle !
“It was a journey of seven miles. As a precaution, my mother had removed my golden ear rings, before she went to her maternal home. I had not worn any other ear rings. Raj Kumar observed my ears devoid of any ornaments and purchased for me a pair of ear rings with green stones, sold on the streets of Chamarajanagar, for three and a half annas ! (less than 25 paise). Of course, the 18 year old Raj Kumar was embarrassed and blushed, when I told his father that ‘Muthu Raj mama got me the lolaks (ear rings)!”
Just a few months before his kidnap, I had asked Dr. Raj Kumar what draws him to Gajanur. He had said “I am a son of soil, want to be closer to nature. Away from the make-believe world of Cinema, I go to Gajanur to discover myself !”
The journey of “Bedara Kannappa” came to an end on 12th of April 2006. “Dhruvataare” who firmly believed in “Huttidare Kannada Naadale Huttabeku… (If at all born, should be born in Kannada Naadu only…),” was an embodiment of simplicity and humility. His spirit however continues to be an eternal force and source of inspiration to even ordinary mortals like me.
I had asked Dr. Raj Kumar whether the photos taken at “HOSMAT” Hospital can be used by me for an article, he had said “Doctre, Khandita yaavdakke bekaadru upayogisikolli ! Nanna Anumati beke illa ! (Doctor, you can definitely make use of the photos for whatever pur-pose you wish ! You don’t need to ask for my permission !) Annavru (Akkavru also) Kaanadante Maayavaadaru (have disappeared without being visible). But, memories and the memorabilia have eternally stayed with me.