Family time in Kannada films

A new crop from the Rajkumar, Ambareesh and Belawadi families is continuing in their illustrious footsteps

You’ve seen three generations of their families appearing in hit films. And now, it’s the young ones carrying the baton forward.

From the Rajkumars to the Devarajs to the Ambareeshs to the Belawadis to the Sarjas, the Kannada film industry boasts a host of illustrious families.

While the Rajkumar family has his sons Shivarajkumar and Puneeth Rajkumar ruling the roost — their brother Raghavendra Rajkumar is not so prolific any more — a younger generation, with Vinay, Yuva and Dhereen, is now getting a foothold.

That’s not all, Dhanya Ramkumar, granddaughter of Rajkumar, will be first woman from the family to get into the movies.

The Belawadi family is led by matriarch Bhargavi Narayan, wife of Belavadi Nanjundaiah Narayan aka Makeup Nani, well-known in theatre and films. Their son Prakash Belawadi is an acclaimed actor and their daughter Sudha Belawadi acts in films and on TV.

Sudha’s husband M G Sathya is a writer (he wrote ‘Swades’, the successful film starring Shah Rukh Khan), and their daughter Samyuktha Hornad has appeared in several films. Two weeks ago, Prakash’s daughter Teju debuted in the critically acclaimed film ‘Gantumoote’.

Ask Dhanya, daughter of actor Ramkumar and Poornima (daughter of Rajkumar) how it feels to belong to a family of stars, and she says, “Nepotism exists in every industry. When you grow up watching your father and grandfather rule a particular industry, you’re subconsciously driven towards it.”

She says she wants her father to look at her on-screen and say “Hey, that’s my daughter.”

Dhanya has picked up skills from the family and hopes to use them in the craft. “We have it easier when it comes to getting a project, but proving yourself to the public is entirely on you — my father doesn’t have a say in that,” she says.

And people expect more from star kids. “That makes me want to do better and that’s how it’s supposed to be. Earlier, we had Puneeth and Shivaraj Kumar ruling, but now we have the entire family coming together. Our grandparents would’ve been really happy to see all of us on screen,” says Dhanya, whose brother Dhereen and cousin Vinay and Yuva have already taken the cinema route.

Teju Belawadi, daughter of actor Prakash Belawadi, grew up in a family of TV and film artistes. Her father didn’t want his children to enter Kannada films because he felt the scripts were not good enough. “Appa is such a strong personality and his opinions are solid, so nobody saw this coming,” admits Teju, whose ‘Gantumoote’, directed by Roopa Rao, has won the audience and critical praise.  People told her their expectations were high since she was Prakash’s daughter. They told her, “Don’t disappoint us.” She didn’t let the pressure affect her performance, she says.

For actor Prakash Belawadi, Teju’s debut as lead actor in ‘Gantumoote’ was a surprise. “She’d already acted with Prakash Raj in ‘Idholle Ramayana’ — at that time, she was apprehensive and not interested in films. But for ‘Gantumoote’, she didn’t ask my permission or anything, she just announced it at home,” he says. He was tense as he didn’t know what she was doing, but he didn’t say anything even though, he says, he is talkative with the kids.

“As time went by, she made me more nervous by telling me that I shouldn’t watch it. In fact, I was the last person to see it,” says Prakash, who has always told his daughters and his students not to join the film industry. His passion lies in theatre.

“Life should not be dependent on films. I always recommend amateur theatre where one can hone one’s skills and imagination. I tell them also to learn an affiliated art like cinematography. You will ruin yourself if you try to make yourself just an actor,” he says.  

Teju says her father is an encyclopedia. “Growing up, he always kept us grounded and never sold us the idea of glamour. I was repelled by it as it was a scary world where one would have to constantly worry about appearance,” she muses.

Will Prakash give his daughter advice on how to choose films? “I don’t think she gives me any choice, but if she asks me, I’ll find out what it is and give her strong advice. But if she doesn’t ask me, I won’t pile on and ask questions,” he says.

Another actress from the Belawadi family is Samyukta Hornad, daughter of Sudha Belawadi, who considers her mother and grandmother her biggest influences.

“They are so liberal and progressive in their thinking. We have a lot of women from my clan into theatre and acting. I’m very lucky to be born in this family. It’s definitely a privilege -  I thank my stars every day,” she says.

Bhargavi put Samyukta on stage when she was just five, so she has been aware of how it is to be around on stage. “When you belong to such a family, your attitude towards life is different as there’s so much exposure to literature, art and music,” she says, smiling.

Kannada audiences will see a lot more star kids shining on the big screen. It’s a no-brainer that they will receive more offers and fans, but they will have to prove themselves in the longer run. 

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