BENGALURU: Three weeks ago, I had SMSed our professional and family friend Dr Naresh Shetty (President of M.S. Ramaiah Memorial Hospital, Bengaluru) “How is Parvathamma? What could be the prognosis?”. Dr Naresh Shetty called me back at night 9.45 pm and said, “she is still on ventilator, dialysis is being done and you can see her at the ICU, if you wish!” I was having a fever and did not want to risk carrying any respiratory infection into the ICU, instead I spoke to her brother SA Chinnegowda.
My paternal family’s association with the Kannada filmdom’s first family dates back nearly six decades! My father Ashwathanarayan, was the first entertainment enterpreneur who started a movie theatre in Chamarajanagar, 12 miles from Dr Rajkumar’s native village Gajanur. Whenever Rajkumar and his father Singanallur Puttaswamaiah staged plays in Chamarajanagar in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, my father used to be the host for their drama troupe, getting them ‘set dosas’ from ‘Pacchappa’s hotel!
I got to see Parvathamma for the very first time, during the shooting of ‘Raja nanna Raja’ at ‘The Premier Studios’, Mysore, when my father had taken all of us for the shooting of the movie, where my father also handed over some urgently required ‘finances’ to the producer Abbayya Naidu. Rajkumar made sure my father was comfortably seated, himself standing and enquiring about ‘rains and agriculture’ in Chamarajanagar lands. Parvathamma had asked me “paapu, what is your name?”.
During the shooting of “Sampatthige Savaal” in Gajanur, Parvathamma along with actress Manjula had come down to Chamarajanagar in Dr. Raj’s Fiat Car and requested my father, “Ivru (Dr.Raj) has requested that you should come and identify the water resources for digging bore wells in Gajanur!” My father had accompanied them in their car and had identified the water resources.
In 1993, when Dr Raj had to undergo physiotherapy at ‘HOSMAT’ hospital, I had the privilege to be with Dr. Raj, Parvathamma, and their children Poornima and Puneeth on alternate days, every evening.
I had spent about half a day with her when the Kannada matinee idol was kidnapped, and the courage she had shown during that time was exemplary.
In an interview I had done of Parvathamma, in April 2007, to pay tribute to Dr. Raj on his first death anniversary, she had told me: “When I was seven years of age, my mother before starting to her maternal home in KRS for her delivery, had removed my golden ear rings. I was not married at that time. Rajkumar and his father (who were my relatives even before marriage) were camping in Chamarajanagar as part of Gubbi Veeranna’s drama troupe. I was at my grandfather’s village in Yediyuru. Rajkumar’s father asked him to take me to Chamarajanagar on the cycle.
During the journey, Rajkumar observed that my ears were devoid of any ornaments and he purchased for me, a pair of earrings with green stones, sold on the streets of Chamarajanagar for three and a half annas (less than 25 paise)!. But of course, Rajkumar was very embarrassed and blushed also, when I told his father that “Mama got me new lolaks (ear rings)!” with elation and pride Parvathamma had recalled.
Parvathamma had also recalled when nearly after nine years of their marriage, Shivaraj Kumar was born in Madras, both Dr. Raj and his brother Varadappa woke up all the kannada artists sleeping in the studio at midnight, and went on distributing sweets till early morning!
In 2009, at the inauguration of ‘Fortis Hospital’ in Sheshadripuram, I met Pravathamma, when she affectionately asked me “Be seated with me only!” Later on, she invited me home the coming week, requesting me to bring my published English article on Dr. Raj and her narration, along with copies of the photos I had used from Deccan Herald Library. She also expressed the desire to meet my son Yashas, who was in 3 rd year MBBS at that time. We went to her Sadashivnagar residence, along with copies of enlarged colour photos and laminated copy of the published article and Parvathamma gave me the brochures of her charitable organisation for destitute women - “Shakti Dhama” in Mysore. (I have become a donor for ‘Shaktidhama’ since 2009). We were served with snacks and tea, Raghavendra’s wife gave me yele adike.
Twenty seven years back, I was eight months pregnant, and I had lost my mother a year earlier. Parvathamma had invited me and my husband for Dr Raj’s 60th birthday and traditionally gave me green bangles to wear, after ‘filling my madilu’ with fruits, blouse piece, flowers and arisina kumkum!
Akkavaru, the determined ‘Vajreshwari’, has now gone to join her legendary husband!.