The Ambareesh you didn’t know

The Ambareesh you didn’t know

His generous and candid nature was obscured and only his vices highlighted, says personal assistant Raju, who was constantly by his side for two decades

Ambareesh in ‘Paduvarahalli Pandavaru’.

Ambareesh, the Kannada movie star who died on November 24 last year, was much misunderstood, according to a man who spent 20 years by his side. Raju (Varadaraja C) who had been with Ambareesh in his capacity as one of the personal assistants, shared with Metrolife stories from Ambareesh’s life that only a few in his closest circle knew. 

Raju, who hails from Mandya, was born and brought up in Kempegowdanagar, Bengaluru. He is a BCom graduate and a social activist. He is a National high school student and the founder of Kempegowda statue at Kempegowdanagar.

What he told Sonia
Ambareesh was a Central minister from October 24, 2006 – February 15, 2007, when the UPA was in power. He held the Information and Broadcasting portfolio, and some people had told Sonia Gandhi, then the party president, that he was always drunk, and not sober when he signed official papers. Sonia Gandhi summoned him to 10 Janpath in Delhi. This is what he told her, according to Raju: “Yes, I drink, smoke and gamble. Those complaints are genuine. The complaint that I sign files when I am drunk is false. I have never signed a cheque leaf or a film project after drinking. It is up to you to trust me or not.” Sonia’s faith in Ambareesh doubled after his candid admission, Raju says.

Tiger Prabhakar
TIger Prabhakar

When Prabhakar died
Ambareesh wept like a child on learning that the body of actor Prabhakar was lying at Mallya Hospital with no one being in a position to pay his bills. Raju says Ambareesh sent the money, after which the hospital allowed the body to be taken out.                                                                  

Home theatre wish
For two months before his death, Ambareesh had been pressing the contractor renovating his JP Nagar house to complete the work. He was planning a grand house-warming ceremony in January. It was his dream to watch the premiere of his son Abhishek’s debut film Amar in his room, and on a home theatre system.

Tears for Vishnuvardhan
Ambareesh was devastated on December 30, 2009, when violence broke out during the funeral of his close friend and actor Vishnuvardhan. Actors Ramesh Aravind, Duniya Vijay and Devaraj were returning with him in a police van after the funeral. “Rajkumar’s family could not even touch his body before he was buried. Vishnuvardhan’s funeral had to take place under police

Ambareesh and Vishnuvardhan
Ambareesh and Vishnuvardhan.

protection,” he lamented. When great actors die, young artistes should bear them on their shoulders before the last rites.

That is the best way to show respect, he had said. He was upset neither Rajkumar nor Vishnuvardhan had received the respect due to them because of the public clamour. Raju says he was able to explain Ambareesh’s sentiments to movie stars, and they readily agreed to carry his body on their shoulders.

He gifted Dhoni Rs 2 lakh
After a match at M Chinnaswamy stadium in 2004, Ambareesh met M S Dhoni, then an up-and-coming cricketer. Ambareesh handed him a cheque for Rs 2 lakh, saying a poor boy from Ranchi had played well and needed all the encouragement he could get.

Waiter for Veeraswamy
In the late 1980s, Ambareesh was a big star. He was working in three shifts. When he was offered a waiter’s role in the big-budget Premaloka, many were shocked. They said Ambareesh would lose his hero’s image if he took up the role. He was not worried. “It was Veeraswamy who gave me my first role in Naagarahaavu. If I am anything today, it is because of Veeraswamy. Come what may, I will do the role of a waiter,” he said.


Money for workers
Ambareesh was busy campaigning at Bidadi for the Ramanagara Assembly bypoll after H D Deve Gowda, who had won the seat, became the prime minister. Three workers were killed in a police firing when workers and management representatives clashed near the Velliyappa factory in Bidadi hobli, Ramanagar. He was deeply pained. For many years, he sent money to the bereaved families every month, recalls Raju.

Drove his own car
Ambareesh was MP thrice and a Union minister once. He never used the official car or employed a driver. He drove his car himself. When he was a minister in the Siddaramaiah ministry, his health had deteriorated, and he used the official car with a driver.

Raju’s lament
Several such incidents have been obscured from the public. Only his drinking, smoking and gambling have been highlighted, Raju says. “He rarely drank during the day. He smoked only when he was drinking. He never attended shootings or events when he was drunk,” he says.