Vishnuvardhan: Remembering Kannada star's life and work

Late actor Dr Vishnuvardhan

Vishnuvardhan, who was known as the angry young man of the Kannada film industry, was born Sampath Kumar on Sept. 18 in the year 1950. He later took the name of Vishnuvardhan from the great Hoysala king. He appeared in over 220 films in Kannada, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam and became the second most popular film star in Karnataka.

He started his acting career in 1972 with the National Award-winning film Vamsha Vriksha directed by  B. V. Karanth and Girish Karnad based on the novel of the same name by S. L. Bhyrappa.

The Kannada film industry at the time was ruled by none other than Rajkumar and it was an immense challenge to counter his popularity. Vishnuvardhan got his first lead role in the movie Naagarahaavu directed by Puttanna Kanagal based on novels by T. R. Subba Rao. Donning the role of an angry young man and challenging the caste system captured the attention of the audience. It was the first Kannada movie to complete 100 days at the cinema. Vishnuvardhan received the Filmfare Award for Best Actor for the movie.

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Vishnuvardhan has acted in many films in other languages. He was in Tamil films like Alaigal and Mazhalai Pattalam. In Telugu, he did Okkadu Chalu and Sardar Dharmaanna. In Malayalam, Vishnuvardhan worked in films like Adima Changala, Mazhakala Megam and Samarppanam. He made his debut in Bollywood with Ek Naya Ithihas and went on to do films like Inspector Dhanush, Ashaant and Zaalim.

Action movies were thought to be Vishnuvardhan’s forte. As a martial artist, his films were well known for the stunts and the actor was known to perform difficult stunts with ease. His iconic move was to lift his leg and place it on the opponent's shoulder. Vishnuvardhan's fans gave him the name Abhinaya Bhargava.

He showed exemplary acting in movies like Nagarahaavu, Hombisilu, Bandhana, Malayamarutha, Suprabhatha, Muthina Haara, Rayaru Bandaru Mavana Manege, Halunda Thavaru, Laali, Surya Vamsha, Yajamana and Veerappa Nayaka. Suprabatha bagged eight awards and set a Kannada movie record in 1988.

Muthina Haara was made along the lines of The Guns of Navarone and Lion of the Desert. While shooting this movie, Vishnuvardhan performed a dangerous parachute stunt and missed death by a whisker.

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He bagged the prestigious Sir M. Visvesvaraya Award in 1992. Directors like the late S. R. Puttanna Kanagal and S. Narayan described Vishnuvardhan as one of the most reliable actors in the Kannada Industry.

A 14.3-km stretch of road between the Banashankari Temple and Kengeri in Bengaluru has been named after the superstar. It is the longest road in Asia to be named after a celebrity.  

Here's a list of Vishnuvardhan films suggested by his wife Dr Bharathi Vishnuvardhan and son-in-law Anirudh:

Naagarahaavu: A clash of ideologies between Raamaachari and his teacher leads him to fight against the caste system and other maladies corrupting society.

Yajamana: A 2000 Kannada film directed by R. Sheshadri and Radha Bharathi. It is based on the plot of the Tamil film Vanathai Pola.

Simhadriya Simha: Narasimhe Gowda is the head of 48 villages and is known for his sincerity and wisdom. The situation changes when his elder son ascends to the throne following his untimely death.

Surya Vamsha: Sathyamurthy has a low opinion of Kanakamurthy, his youngest son, for being illiterate and abandons him for marrying Padma against his wishes. However, Kanakamurthy decides to rebuild his life.

Bandhana: A doctor falls in love with his student. He then learns that her marriage is already fixed. Post-marriage, the doctor falls into deep depression as the woman's husband begins to suspect her fidelity.

Krishna Nee Begane Baro: Krishna's married life goes sour as his wife Rukmani follow's her stepmother leading. Rukmani misunderstands Krishna's relationship with Radha and accuses him of bigamy. The drama then moves to the court.

Suprabhatha: Vijay, an entrepreneur, provides shelter to Sundareshwar and Hema, who has a dark past and pretends to be mute. When Vijay finds out the truth, darker secrets come out of the closet.

Veerappa Nayaka: Veerappa's Gandhian preaching has fallen on deaf ears as his own son grows up to become a terrorist.

 

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