28 April 2009

Dr Raj Kumar and Kannada Culture

Sugata Srinivasaraju of Outlook magazine wrote an excellent profile of Dr Raj Kumar in 2004, calling him a "gentle hero of Kannada culture". Some quotes:

He had acted in 205 Kannada films, one-fourth of all the films ever made until then in that language. Rajkumar has effectively defined Kannada identity.

For the growing number of middle-class Kannada speakers in particular, the actor's simple lifestyle, humility, the liberal humanism in his films, abstention from alcohol and tobacco and a genuine desire to avoid the limelight struck a particularly resonant chord.

A local culture is (now) groping for identity with competition from foreign shores. This may be an outcome of globalisation and commercialisation of culture.

Certainly there continue to be Kannada icons. But these are from sport – like cricketers Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble – and business, like Infosys's N R Narayana Murthy. And their appeal is pan-Indian, even global. There is nothing obviously or uniquely Kannada about them that would make them specifically local heroes.

A process of 'loss' began when various groups like Dalits, farmers, and backward classes began aggressively asserting their identities. The idea of a single hero unifying an entire culture began to wane. This may also be the reason that Karnataka has no tall political leader after Devaraj Urs.

The baton has simply not been passed on, not just with Rajkumar, but in the context of the Kannada language itself. The stagnating readership of Kannada newspapers and sales of Kannada books are strong indicators of this change that has come about.

The revolution in information technology over the past decade has also distracted the Kannada middle class, which formed much of Rajkumar's support base. This middle class amnesia appears to have taken a toll on all that is local.

Rajkumar is the last in a line of icons that once defined Kannada pride at its most visionary and liberal. These included literary giants like D R Bendre, Masti Venkatesh Iyengar, Shivaram Karanth, A N Krishna Shastri and K V Puttappa, and the visionary engineer Sir M Vishweshvarayya.


jai said...

Rajakumara is an a$$hole. He hasn't done anything to Kannada. He is like Girish Karnad, U.R.Anantamurty and such psuedo Kannadigas. Rajakumara was a waste body for us - lost 100 crores because of this joker. His sons are rowdys doing third grade films. I don't know what these "abhimanis" see in him.

Nethra said...

U give ur address and will see who is asshole, lowdakkebal, ninage thakkath iddare munde baro bolimagane....