Parvathamma Rajkumar: With the death of the Kannada film industry's 'iron lady', an era ends
Parvathamma Rajkumar, the wife of the legendary Kannada superstar Dr Rajkumar, died on Wednesday morning — 31 May 2017 — after suffering from multiple organ failure. She was 77.
Parvathamma's funeral will be held next to her husband Rajkumar’s memorial at Kanteeveera Studio and her eyes would be donated as per Rajkumar’s wish.
Parvathamma Rajkumar was the ‘iron lady’ of Kannada films. She was the first woman producer, distributor, exhibitor who only marketed Kannada films. She produced 87 films under her banner Vajreshwari Combines — one of the oldest and most successful banners in Kannada film — and Poornima Enterprises. She produced films with her husband Dr Rajkumar, sons Shivaraj Kumar, Raghavendra Rajkumar, Puneeth Rajkumar, and her 87th film with grandson Vinay Rajkumar.
Parvathamma was much more than the wife of a superstar and had a hold over Kannadiga people and the industry in particular. All political parties who ruled Karnataka made it a point to always to listen to her. She was the driving force behind Rajkumar’s superstardom. The Hindu in a 2010 article on Parvathamma wrote, "It is unsaid, but made very clear. Parvathamma is at the centre of the story and Dr Rajkumar, the biggest star of Kannada cinema, unfolds strictly through her viewpoint. Having recognised this, it is not far-fetched to believe that she played a big role in stage managing the image of this Kannada icon. Gutsy and strong-willed, by her own admission — 'the word fear is not in my dictionary'."
Parvathamma called the shots as far as the Kannada film industry was concerned. For many years, no film or television serial was allowed to be dubbed into Kannada, till the competition commission shot it down. In a cosmopolitan city like Bengaluru (which has the maximum number of multiplexes), she saw to it that Kannada films were given preference and prime shows over other language films. And till the implementation of GST (from 1 July 2017), there was no entertainment tax on Kannada films.
Said leading producer Karthik Gowda, whose recent Rajakumara with Puneeth Rajkumar is 2017’s biggest hit, “She was truly like an Amma to all of us, and made the Kannada film industry vibrant, and a force to reckon with. She was a gutsy producer and had a knack of picking the right story. The epic movie Mayura was her choice. And on the personal front, she is a role model in the way she runs her large extended family and business together in a perfect manner.”
The grit and determination that she showed when Dr Rajkumar was kidnapped by forest brigand Veerappan was appreciated by even Tamil superstar Rajinikanth, a close family friend. (Remember it was Rajinikanth and his backdoor diplomacy with Tamil politicians and some fringe groups which secured the release of the Kannada superstar.) Rajinikanth is expected to take a day off from the Mumbai schedule of Kaala, and fly down to Bengaluru to pay his condolences to the Rajkumar family.
Aravind Gowda, a Bengaluru-based journalist who is close to the Rajkumar family, told Firstpost: "Parvathamma can be considered as one of the pillars of the Kannada film industry because she brought together all the stakeholders concerned, in times of adversities. Though not vocal or seen much on public platforms, she was consulted by producers and other actors on multiple issues. She has been a great entrepreneur. In a male-dominated industry, she started a production house to produce Dr Rajkumar's movies and later, featuring her sons. Until then, superstars working under their own banners were a rarity in the Kannada film industry. As a producer, her passion for films resulted in plethora of movies with rich content on social issues. She is responsible for introducing popular female superstars such as Sudha Rani, Prema, Malashree, Rakshita, Ramya, and many more. She was always at the forefront in guiding the film industry as well as her three actor sons on Kannada language and culture-related issues. Dr Rajkumar always acknowledged her contribution towards his success."