Onscreen power

Onscreen power

For Puneeth Rajkumar, success and failures are a part of the learning experience. The Sandalwood star talks to Bindu Gopal Rao about his journey in films and his mantra to survive in the industry...

I am on the sets of Puneeth Rajkumar’s latest untitled movie and his makeup man is waiting to escort me for the interview. I am asked to wait as the shot is getting canned, and in a few minutes pack up is announced. Suddenly, Puneeth appears and is surrounded by a number of people. I cannot help but notice that despite having had a long day of shooting, the actor obliges everyone with a photograph, and is smiling throughout. In fact, I was quite taken aback when he actually came up to me and introduced himself. 

As we headed towards his makeup van for the interview, Puneeth gets admiring glances from everyone around. It is abundantly clear that the star actor wears his fame lightly on his shoulders. So, naturally, my first question to him is if movies were something he always wanted to do. “I started at a young age and I hardly realised the seriousness of filmmaking at that time. For me, it was an opportunity to spend time with my father, who would be busy filming almost six to seven films a year. Even when I got recognition, it really did not affect me much at all, as it was more a means to escape school then,” Puneeth explains. He has, in fact, acted as a child artiste in 12 films and even won the National Film Award for Best Child Artiste for the film Bettada Hoovu in 1986. 

Born to act

With an impressive family lineage with father Dr Rajkumar and brothers Shivarajkumar and Raghavendra Rajkumar ruling the silver screen, the fifth and youngest child surprisingly never thought of making a career in movies. “After I completed my studies, I got into granite business and even film distribution. Although my parents wanted me to get into acting, they never forced me. Since my business was going nowhere, I decided to give acting a shot. I never attended a professional acting school or learnt dancing, but I was lucky to be launched by Puri Jagannath in Appu. He was a great teacher and easy to talk to, and I learnt a lot from him. Of course, my father, uncle S P Varadappa and my brothers were extremely supportive and stood by me through thick and thin,” Puneeth recalls. 

This was followed with several memorable performances in films like Abhi, Aakash, Arasu, Milana, Raaj — The Showman, Jackie, Hudugaru, Paramathma and Yaare Koogadali (2012) among others. Naturally, Puneeth earned the title Power Star, thanks to his impeccable record of working in movies that have become immensely successful. Ask him about how he chooses his films, the actor says, “I am just 19 films old, and for me it is always the combination of the right director and the script. I have made mistakes too and cannot be right always, but I learn from them and I don’t regret anything. I also take the blame for films that don’t work and believe that whatever happens is for the best.”

From big to small

Despite being the top actor in Sandalwood, Puneeth also took up small screen assignments by hosting the popular quiz show Kannadada Kotyadhipati, the Kannada version of Kaun Banega Crorepati. 

“I was quite skeptical initially, as I am not well qualified myself. But I thought it would be a good opportunity to challenge myself and give my best in a new field. Also, working with Siddharth Basu was a good thing, as I have been a fan of his quiz shows since my childhood. But the best part of the show is seeing the happiness on contestants’ faces after they win, and I am happy to be a part of their life-changing moment.” In fact, he says work is work whether on television or on the big screen, and is open to doing more work on television if a concept excites him. 

The multi-talented actor, who is also a singer, says awards mean a lot to him, but what matters is the praise he gets from his fans and audiences for his work. “I have not got many awards, but my award for Arasu is the most memorable one to date, as it was the last script my father and uncle read.” 

A popular face on the advertisement circuit, he is the brand ambassador of several brands, including Nandini, since it helps the farmers of the State. 

A relatively unknown facet of Puneeth is his involvement in philanthropic works including his mother Parvathamma Rajkumar’s work with an ashram called Shakti Dhama in Mysore. “Something close to my heart is education and I regularly donate to government schools. In fact, wherever I am shooting, I always give worthy schools a lakh in my father’s name.” 

A large portion of his fees from endorsements, as well as a book he co-authored on his legendary father, are used to fund educational activities. 

A family man, Puneeth says that he makes every effort to spend time with his family and regularly takes off on holidays with his wife and daughters. 

This year promises to be an exciting one for the actor with three movies up for release. After shooting for his current movie, he is all set to act in Pawan Wadeyar’s Rana Vikrama and Soori Ajay’s Dodmane Huduga. And in his own words, he has a long way to go and believes that “you can never be a veteran in the entertainment industry.” Little wonder then that his success speaks louder than everything for this affable actor.

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