Ambareesh: Everybody Was His Family

Ambareesh: Everybody Was His Family

A phone call between Ambareesh and his fan.

Amarnath. Definitely a name that is crisp and catchy for a film-star – a name that has good recall. But the Amarnath we are talking about here chose to take on another screen name - Ambareesh - and carved a special name for himself in Kannada cinema. He lived up to the name his parents had chosen for him – he will always be amara  - immortal - for his fans, colleagues, and well-wishers.

Amarnath was born on May 29, 1952, in Doddarasinakere Village of Mandya district to Morattemarigowda Huche Gowda and Padmamma, the sixth of seven children. Ambareesh did his early schooling in the century-old Lakshmipuram Government School in Mysuru, and his pre-university course at the Sarada Vilas College, another landmark institution that was founded 72 years ago in the same heritage city. He chose to discontinue his formal college education after that, not being very interested in academics.

 The renowned violinist, Pitilu T Chowdiah, was his maternal grandfather – one could safely say that a leaning towards the arts was definitely in his genes. Ambareesh’s elder siblings were Shivakumar, Umadevi, Anand Kumar, Radha, Harish, and Ranjini, his younger sister. “My brother, Dr Harish, died exactly a year ago to the day – November 24, 2017 – that Ambareesh passed away,” Anand Kumar told Sunday Herald in a conversation last week, a couple of days after the funeral of his ‘rebel star’ brother, nine years his junior. We were recalling the brusque way in which he showed his concern and kindness to many whose lives he had touched – friends, relatives, fans and journalists.

“I used to be with him very often at home when the phone – a landline then - rang many times with people just wanting to have a few words with him. He always used to answer the phone and talk to them nicely, asking them who they were and where they were calling him from, and all that.  

Once, a person called him on his mobile phone and my brother put it on speaker-mode as he often did. When he took this call, the man told him he was calling from Mandya, and could he please give the phone to Ambareesh (all in Kannada). He told the man very politely that he was indeed talking to Ambareesh, and that he could continue speaking. But the caller was just not convinced. Ambareesh again told him who he was. That man would not believe him. Then Ambareesh raised his voice and used a choice Kannada epithet to say who he really was. The caller immediately said, “Aiyyo, sorry Anna, I did not recognise your voice earlier!’” laughed Anand, remembering his brother’s quirks fondly. “That was the way he showed his affection,” he added.

Many such memories over the decades of this large-hearted star will always stay with his wife Sumalatha, son Abhishek, siblings and relatives. And the countless people who came in contact with Amarnath ‘Ambareesh’ were always made to feel that they, too, were a part of his extended family.