‘I miss the charm of old Bangalore’

‘I miss the charm of old Bangalore’

Actor Sampath talks about the sights and sounds of the city he grew up in


I moved to Bengaluru from Lucknow where I was born when I was eight years old. My father was in the Army and his transferable job took us to several places across the country. 

I am the youngest of seven siblings that include three girls. Each of my siblings was born in different states across the country and incidentally, they also married people from different states. You could call it a national integration of sorts. 

 When we moved here we lived on Malleswaram 11th Cross and I went to Kendriya Vidyalaya near Hebbal. I remember those days I would walk to and from school. Unlike today, there was a circle at Bashyam Circle and there were stone benches on the pavements as we see in parks. There were street lamps and the place was well lit at night. My friends and I would sit on these benches after school and chat late into the evening, till we were asked to go home by a guard who would come around to turn off the streetlights at 9. It was considered late if you were seen walking around after 9 pm. Life in Bengaluru would come to standstill by 7 those days. There was no traffic those days and the few vehicles that would ply would be Ambassadors, Fiats and we had plenty of scooters and Luna. The red bus was a constant. The bench was where my friends and I spent our evenings and this habit continued through school, college and even after I started working.  

 My first job was with Yellow Pages. That was my first tryst with marketing and selling ad space. I then moved onto work in Mumbai Press and later Navbharat. So, I began my career as an ad man till cinema happened. I had dabbled with a bit of theatre in school and college and secretly nursed the dream of becoming an actor. 

 My mother wasn’t too keen on me entering the film industry. The perception in most households, those days, especially among the mothers, was that cinema was for people who have no ambition or direction in life. My mother was a tough lady. Although my father was in the Army, it was my mother who had all those traits. After a couple of years in the film industry, my mother understood that I was keen and wouldn’t really budge.  

 I have very vivid memories of my childhood in old Bangalore. The place that we lived in Malleswaram had so many trees. Our home never had a fan hook and we never used a fan even in Summer. Hot summer afternoons were spent playing in the ground, well protected by the trees around us. Winter was cold and you needed more than one layer of clothing. 

 My friends and I would walk from Malleswaram to M G Road to watch movies at Plaza and Rex. I was also a regular at the Geetanjali theatre on Link Road. I have watched all of Dr Rajkumar’s blockbuster films like ‘Babruvahana’, ‘Sampathige Savaal’ there. After a movie, we would drive into the many garden restaurants that Bangalore had like Udyavan and Sreeraj, for a quick masala dosa. These restaurants have now been taken over by real estate. 

I have worked in all five languages. I’ve noticed that the Kannada film industry has changed over the years and the kind of stories it churns out today is being noticed by people from other language industries. When I am in Chennai, I get asked what director Suri is working on and when I am in Hyderabad people ask me what Rakshit Shetty is doing next. It’s nice that people are closely following the industry where I began my career.

I come to Bengaluru quite often because of my daughter who studies here and we have a home here. But unlike the older times, I dread to venture out on the streets. I prefer to stay indoors and chill with my friends. Bengaluru was known as a pensioner’s paradise and not meant to grow into the crowded, chaotic city that it is today. There’s really no space to expand and I must say that I miss the good old charm of this city.