When I had first heard about a film actor called Vishnuvardhan, I was already a die hard fan of ‘our’ Rajkumar. Not that I had seen much of Rajkumar’s films, but he was the undisputed favorite. Vishnuvardhan was the guy who had accidentally pulled the trigger of a rifle during the shooting of the film Gandada Gudi (The Sandalwood Abode), the bullet missing Rajkumar by inches – or so my cousin from Bangalore had proclaimed then. Like many other Rajkumar fans, I too was angry with this new guy on the block.
But a few weeks down the line my friends at school started discussing in awe about the ‘rebellious’ nature of this actor. In Nagarahavu (The Cobra), his first film as a hero, he had played the role of a young man who rebels against a conservative society. It was hard not to get impressed by the way he roughed up the bad guys through stylist dialogues and actions. Not that I had seen many of his films, but the stories were in circulation, sometimes along with some detailed screenplay.
There were stories of films that he had acted with comedian Dwarakish like Singaporinalli Raja Kulla (Raja and the Dwarf in Singapore) and Kalla Kulla (The Thief and the Dwarf) or with Srinath like Kiladi Jodi (The Clever Pair). These films were comedy entertainers where ‘our’ Vishnu was a happy-go-lucky ‘cool’ sort of character who made people laugh.
Later on, when I was old enough to be allowed to watch movies on my own, I did catch up with some old Vishnu films. He had by then already ventured into mature emotional roles; films like Bandana (The Bondage). And like Rajkumar, in his films, he had also modeled himself as a champion of the Kannada pride. But a few years on, when he got into the total action masala movies phase of his, I had lost interest. The obsession had now shifted to know as to what lies beyond.
But thirty five years…changing times…a carefully built image of a super star and the subtle transformations that it was subjected to…
RIP Sampath Kumar, as Vishnuvardhan was called at his birth.
RIP Vishnuvardhan, the image that Sampath Kumar was…