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|May 5, 2000||
Dr Rajakumar turns 72
Kannada superstar Dr Rajakumar, who released his comeback film several weeks ago, just celebrated his 72nd birthday. Even today, he has the largest fan following in Karnataka. No one, not even his son, popular reigning hero Shivaraj Kumar, can attract that kind of blind mass adulation.
Dr Rajakumar's birthday is always a great event in Bangalore, particularly in the posh locality of Sadashivanagar, where the star lives next to Shivaraj.
Surprisingly, Rajakumar's film, Shabdavedi, did not do as well as was expected at the box office. But that seems to have had no impact on the size or the commitment of his fan following.
His fans, however, were disappointed when Rajakumar made no public announcement about his forthcoming films, if any. It is customary for his fans to make an annual pilgrimage to Rajakumar's house on his birthday to renew their pledge to support him as well as to reiterate their request that he should act in more films.
But he has already declared he will make Bhakta Ambareesha, in which he plays a triple role. He was to have started work on it by now, but does not appear to have done so.
Meanwhile, Shivaraj has declared his intention of asking his father to act in his first movie as director, which he hopes to make this year. But there is no further news of that either.
Shivaraj sings another tune
Shivaraj is already halfway through his next film with the producer-director duo, Rockline Venkatesh and D Rajendra Babu, who specialise in making successful big budget remakes. Their last film, Preethse, is still doing well in the B and C centres now.
We yet do not know which film is being remade. What we can be sure of is that it is definitely a remake of some successful movie in another language.
What we do know, though, is that both Shivaraj and ex-minister Anant Nag, who is back in movies full time now, have sung a few lines for one of the songs of Krishna Leele. Although he barely sings eight lines in the whole song, Shivaraj displays his ability to hold a tune well.
Which is not really surprising since his father, who does his own playback and turns out several albums of devotional music, is a gifted singer. One can probably expect to hear Shivaraj doing his own playback shortly, provided he can find the time for it.
Return of the actor-turned-politician
As for Anant Nag, the handsome but aging film star-turned-politician-turned-film star has had to fall back on his film career after his debacle at the last assembly polls. For two years, while he was a minister, Nag had completely given up acting. He had even confided in rediff.com his desire to retire from films if he got re-elected.
Nag did have one release as a hero. But he seems resigned to accepting supporting roles in mainstream commercial movies now. Considering the fact that Nag is actually one of the genuinely talented and thinking actors in Kannada cinema today, it is a pity to see him wasted in this manner. He himself admits that age is catching up with him (he is in his late 40s now) and would rather avoid playing the hero as he did in his earlier days.
Malashree's comeback effort
Aging heroines usually marry rich doctors in the US -- like Sudha Rani of Kannada cinema and Madhuri Dixit of Bollywood -- or grow gracefully into maternal roles, like Leelavathi and Pandaribhai. But the overweight and buxom Malashree, Kannada's most popular heroine a decade ago, is attempting a comeback as heroine.
Posters of Chamundi, releasing this Friday with an additional English title, The Final Revenge, have been splashed all over Bangalore, displaying a grimacing Malashree in various aggressive postures.
It seems rather unlikely that the audience, accustomed to seeing slim model-turned-actresses, some of whom have even imported from Bollywood, will flock to the theatres to see a blowsy former actress in a masala action film.
Malashree's mother tongue is actually Telugu. Rajakumar introduced her in his second son Raghavendra's debut a dozen years ago.
This was the time when southern audiences actually seemed to like plump, round-faced heroines and Malashree, in spite of average acting skills, shot to the top rapidly. Her real-life romance with Sunil, a young hero with chocolate-boy good looks, helped nudge her career along.
She made the most of her popularity. There was a Malashree release almost every week. Then, Sunil was killed in a car accident. Malashree, who was in the car, escaped with a few injuries. Tired audiences stopped coming in to see her films. She gradually faded into oblivion.
She married producer V Ramu, the man who went on to make several blockbusters like AK-47 and Simhada Mari.
Finally he is producing Chamundi with Malashree. Industry insiders feel he is either deliberately making a film that will flop to divert the tax man from his numerous box office hits or has made so much money that he is now willing to humour his wife's desire for a successful comeback.
-- M D Riti
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