During Sepoy Ramu Shooting
by Nuggehalli Pankaja
It was during the shooting of “Sepoy Ramu’ - the picture based on my novel ‘Barele Innu Yamune?’, that I had the good fortune of meeting late Rajkumar-jewel of our Karnataka’s tinsel world. No sooner had the producer’s car landed,in jumped our beautifully- dressed neighbour with her brood (three teenaged daughters), generously giving some space to me.
I can never describe the excitement that gripped us as the car neared the studio; It was when we were about to get down that the fearful sight met us. A gang of ferocious dacoits, twirling their terrible moustaches wielding their arms! The way they looked at us…..it sent shivers down our spine. Clutching her daughters, the neighbour woman began to chant Hanuman Chalisa, certain that her girls would be kidnapped and sold.
‘They are all actors dressed up for the shooting of the dacoit-scenes ”Car-driver laughed our fears away - “You will see fake policemen also on the sets”.
What a world of make-believe! Fake rajas, fake retinue,and………..fake goodmen…….
Mini huts…..mini durbars…..mini parks…….
We stared around stupefied.
A big crowd had gathered before a makeshift hut, wherein Rajkumar and the popular lady actress Leelavati were doing their scene. I can never forget that moment, when I was introduced. “What a wonderful story you have written, Tayi!”
He said, in pure Kannada- “I am very happy to act in it, but I wish they had not changed it so much.”
Afterwards I learnt that he had indeed protested, having a great regard for creative writers, especially women.
We watched his acting spell-bound. Never did he falter. He was completely in his world, engrossed in carrying out even the minute instructions of the director. Veteran that he was, not once did he defy director, or assert himself! In between shots he would turn aside, and rehearse, oblivious of the thousand stares around. I remember the scene had something to do with ‘ungura’ (ring), for they went on and on about it- both Rajkumar as sepoy Ramu, and Leelavati, as his wife. I also remember thinking— “I took just five or ten minutes to write that scene, why are they taking so long?”
Another thing impressed me very much—his impeccable diction! Being a versatile actor, he had donned various roles like historical, mythological, villager, city-man, etc, and he had adopted his diction to suit the role assigned very creditably! And what an alluring voice, both while speaking, and singing! Surely God-given gifts!
“He is very dedicated to his profession, and goes about it in a methodical way, never giving us headache like some do” The producer, Mr.Paul, a Bengali (Producer of ‘Chakrathirta’ ) etc, told me- “Comes on time, stays till the end; That is why I always have him as my hero, and the moment he rejects a script, I too do the same.“
This compliment coming from a man of Bengal, seat of culture!
Another incident comes to my mind; I had the pleasure of meeting Arati-another heroine in the picture. Arati, a young sprightly girl, had just then made her debut, a small role in Kanigal Puttanna’s film ‘Gejjepuje’. Her elder sister who was the propelling force , patiently answered all my curious queries. “There was a romantic scene yesterday, you should have attended that shooting”- She informed in the course of the conversation. I could not help questioning— “Didn’t she find it difficult to perform?”
“Yes, she did find it embarrassing- that too in front of so many people," She agreed. "But Rajkumar brought out the actress in her by this advice- "Forget people, forget yourself, just concentrate on your role…….Be that role for the moment, and everything will come out by itself. Afterwards, come back to being yourself, forgetting the part played. That is the essence of good acting.”
That advice really helped my sister, helped her to overcome her inhibitions.” She said.
I had the pleasure of meeting Parvatamma Rajkumar also, and had a chat with her. Everyday of the shooting, she would bring her baby- (Shiva Rajkumar?) He would be playing by himself while she stood nearby, watching her husband; Slightest uneasiness, she would be at his side, attending to him like a mother. During lunch breaks, she would give him complete rest for some time, guarding the door of the private room upstairs like Jayavijaya! Perhaps the saying - ‘There is a woman behind every successful man’ applies to the couple!
I found Parvatamma Rajkumar very very simple then-what a contrast when I met her afterwards, during Shiva Rajkumar’s wedding! I couldn’t recognize her in those jewels, rich apparel! But the person within had not changed a whit! No, success had not gone to her head as is the norm; She welcomed me with the same warmth, and I did have a nice time going over the memory-lane. God, her face was exuding a rare lustre not evident before!
Yes, Rajkuamar had invited me to the wedding through a handwritten-letter signed by him; Of course it sent thrills, but unfortunately could not meet him since he had to hurry away to the studio while the fans climbed over the compound-walls, and spilled into the hall. I really don’t know how I came home intact. No, I didn’t attend the other marriages though invitation-cards had come. Did I miss a golden opportunity of meeting him again? ****