OTTplay Logo
settings icon
profile icon

Puneeth Rajkumar, an actor with a child’s heart

In the grieving minds of Kannada film lovers lies a little boy who sang “Kanadante Mayavadanu’’ alongside Dr Rajkumar. His joyous act in the song is haunting every Kannadiga today. Be it Ramu from Bettada Hoovu or Prahalada from Bhakta Prahalada, this little boy stole the hearts of millions of Kannada cinema lovers.

Puneeth Rajkumar, an actor with a child’s heart

Last Updated: 10.51 AM, Jul 04, 2024

Share

In one of the darkest moments in the history of Kannada cinema, Puneeth Rajkumar, the son of late legendary actor Dr Rajkumar, passed away, aged only 46 on October 29. But in the saddened minds of Kannada film lovers lies a little boy who sang ‘Kanadante Mayavadanu’ alongside Dr. Rajkumar. Today, his joyous act in the song is haunting every Kannadiga. Be it Ramu from Bettada Hoovu or Prahalada from Bhakta Prahalada, this little boy stole the hearts of millions of Kannada cinema lovers. 

Born as Lohith, fondly called as Appu, after his debut movie as an adult, Puneeth has been the ‘Unofficial Mane Maga’ of every household. As he starts his journey to the otherside to be with his parents, Dr. Rajkumar and Parvathamma, it breaks our hearts to even think that he is no more. 

To be an actor, you have to be a child, said Paul Newman. If there was a kid at heart in the whole Kannada film industry, it was Puneeth, after his legendary father Dr. Rajkumar. He is probably the only actor to count his birthday and work anniversary to the same number. Puneeth was accidentally cast in V Somashekar’s Premada Kaanike and Aarathi as a six month old. And six months later he was cast in Sanadi Appanna and Taayige Takka Maga. After this stint and a break of two years he started appearing in most of the films his father Dr.Rajkumar acted in. As a seven-year-old, he recorded his first song ‘Baana Daariyalli Soorya’ for the film Bhagyavantha. 

poster

Puneeth outperformed his older brothers Dr. Shivarajkumar and Raghavendra Rajkumar in a flash. He had 14 films in his bag by the time he was 14 years old. As a child artist he won two Karnataka State Film Awards and one National Award. 

We can say he never stopped acting because in his early teenage he appeared in the films ‘Shiva Mechhida Kannappa’ as the young Kannappa and as Appu in ‘Parashuram’ alongside his father, which marked his last movie as a child artist. 

The fifth and youngest child of matinee idol Rajkumar then took a break from acting for a few years to study. It is said that he was not interested in studying, as he was more attracted to being in front of the camera. In fact, he once shared on a TV show that he was the most pampered kid in the house and narrated a funny incident about his father asking his mother to give him a lot of milk to improve his complexion. 

“My inspiration is my father. I know I am not capable of achieving even 1% of what my father did. But I hope I will be able to make some good films and entertain the people in my own way,” Puneeth was quoted as saying on multiple occasions. 

A Powerful comeback!

In the year 2002, when the Kannada film industry was basking in the light of romantic and comedy films, Puneeth made a fantastic comeback with ‘Appu’ which was directed by Puri Jagannadh. Appu, which saw a theatrical success of 200 days, was remade in Tamil, Telugu, Bangla and Bangladeshi Bengali. This was the second Kannada film to be remade in Bangla. The film also marked the debut of actress Rakshitha. 

Puneeth who seemed more confident now was a better dancer and actor. His sharp features and mesmerising personality turned out to be a blessing for his career It is said that he learnt gymnastics to work on action sequences himself. His second film was ‘Abhi’, which marked the debut of actress Ramya. Written and directed by Dinesh Babu, the film and the songs went on to be hits. 

image_item

Puneeth's choice of scripts after Appu and Abhi were mostly family entertainers. Despite that, he was always open-minded to working on movies that had different concepts. The line-up of a few films was criticized for a while. His attempt to work on movies with a different approach didn't seem to work with the Kannada audience much. Examples being Raaj the Showman, Veera Kannadiga, Maurya, Namma Basava and Akash, until he starred in Arasu, which was his third outing with Ramya. The film also starred Meera Jasmin, Darshan Thoogudeepa and Adityaa. He received the Filmfare Best Actor for playing a rich man’s son who forsakes his wealth for the love of a woman. Ajay, the remake of the Tamil film Gilli was well received at the box office, earning him the moniker ‘Power Star’.

Then came Milana, a favourite in every household in Karnataka. Puneeth played a Radio Jockey in the film, which marked the debut of Parvathy Thiruvothu. He won his first Karnataka State Film award for this film, which dwelled on the traditional family values. Vamshi and Raam are the other two films that received critical acclaim.

2010 was a happy year for Puneeth as he gave back-to-back hits. Prithvi, in which he played an IAS officer, was different from the regular loud action pot-boilers and Jackie, in which he was a small-time hustler who helps the cops in dismantling a human trafficking cartel were huge hits. Jackie was his first and unexpected collaboration with the hardcore action director Soori, with whom he went on to do Anna Bond, which wasn't well received, though the songs were a hit. Puneeth’s stunts in Jackie hold a record in South Indian Cinema.

After the commercial success of Jackie, Puneeth got back into the family entertainer genre again with Hudugaru, which was the remake of Nadodigal. The dialogues, songs, dance, action and the plot impressed the Kannada audience and he received his second Filmfare and SIIMA awards for the same. The song Pankaja became the caller tune of almost every Kannadiga.

His association with Yogaraj Bhat was a contrast to his whole career. Paramaathma was an experiment gone wrong. His career saw a downfall after this with films like Yaare Koogadali, and Ninnindale. The film Power, which was the remake of Dookudu came to Puneeth’s rescue. The film, which starred Trisha and Prabhu among others, earned a record Rs 22 crore in the first six days of release.

After the mediocre Mythri and Rana Vikrama, Puneeth’s Doddamane Huduga, Chakravyuha, Raajakumara and Anjani Putra proved to be massive hits. The song Bombe Helutaite from the tear-jerker Raajakumara, was an instant hit, while the Santhosh Ananddram directorial became one of the highest grossing films in the Kannada film industry. He then made Natasaarvabhowma with Pawan Wadeyar, which was more like an ode to his acting career.

poster

Yuvarathnaa was one film that was expected to do well, as it was the second collaboration between Puneeth and Santhosh. Due to the pandemic, the film was sold to Amazon Prime after only a week in theatres with packed shows. It is said that Yuvarathnaa bagged the highest OTT deal for any Kannada movie, till date. It was an out-and-out Puneeth movie, which catered to the family audience and the youth of Karnataka. The movie did quite well.

Over the course of his career, he has appeared in over 30 films, including cameos. He was also an accomplished playback singer. In addition to running a popular record label where hit soundtracks have been released, Puneeth has also built a reputation as a successful producer with PRK Films. Puneeth has hosted a number of TV shows in addition to his work in cinema.

Songs of Charity

Like his father before him, Puneeth Rajkumar was known for giving his colleagues a voice. His earnings from singing in songs that weren't made under his family banner went to charity. Puneeth, in fact, had a list of Kannada-medium schools he has been donating to. Some of the funds are donated to the Dr Rajkumar Trust as well.

Get the latest updates in your inbox