Remembering Appu: The Raajakumara who ruled a million hearts with his smile and humility
The actor died of a cardiac arrest on Friday, October 29, and left his family, the film fraternity and countless fans, devastated
His smile is what will remain in the hearts of his fans and those who knew him. Puneeth Rajkumar the youngest son of the legendary Kannada actor the late Dr Rajkumar, was undoubtedly the Power Star of Sandalwood, the Kannada film industry. Appu, as he was fondly called by his family, friends, co-actors and his innumerable fans was celebrated not just for his power-packed performances in movies such as Hudugaru, Yaare Koogadali, Rana Vikrama and Raajakumara, he was also known for being one of the most affable movie stars in the South Indian film industry.
The actor died of a cardiac arrest on Friday, October 29, and left his family, the film fraternity and countless fans, devastated. Nobody expected the 46-year-old actor, who was fit as a fiddle, to depart so soon. Everyone from the regional film industries and Bollywood, sports fraternity and political circles expressed their condolences like it was a personal loss. Puneeth was not just a star in the South, he was a fine human being who had touched the lives of people in his own way.
Born in Chennai to the legendary Dr Rajkumar and Parvathamma, he was named Lohith as a child. Being the youngest and most adorable son of the megastar, Dr Rajkumar, it didn’t come as a surprise when the six-month-old infant was cast in the thriller Premadha Kanike as Master Lohith. This was just the beginning of a long career in films.
As a child actor, Puneeth worked in some unforgettable movies. He emerged as a dependable child artiste in the Kannada film industry not only for his acting prowess but also for his singing. In the film Chalisuva Modagulu, Puneeth not only aced his role as Ramu, he also sang the track Kaanadanthe Maayvadanu. He won the first-ever State Film Award for Best Child Actor (Male) for the movie. Then his role as Bhakta Prahalada in the movie by the same name received critical acclaim. However, it was his performance in Bettada Hoovu that got him national attention, he won the coveted National Award for Best Child artiste. His convincing acting, and sincerity in performances made him win the hearts of not only the audience but also critics. He had established himself as a worthy star child of Dr Rajkumar. Before he took a break from acting as a child artiste, his last role was with his father, in the movie Parashuram. It was his role as Appu that earned him the nickname.
The magic created by Appu stayed with him. In 2002, when Puneeth debuted, his first movie was titled Appu, and it turned out to be a smashing success. The young star then went onto deliver more hits such as Akaash, Milana, Ninnindale, Hudugaru, Paramathma and Doddmane Huduga. Soon, he became one of the most bankable stars in the Kannada film industry (KFI), and unofficially fans gave him the moniker ‘Power Star’.
In 2017, Puneeth consolidated his position as the Power Star when his movie Raajakumara, directed by Santosh Anandram turned out to be a mega-blockbuster breaking all records in KFI. In addition to acting, the actor lent his voice to many hit numbers such as Taliban Alla Alla (Appu), Jothe Jotheyali (Vamshi), Hosa Gaana Bajaana (Raam), Mylapura Mylari (Mylari), Kanna Sanneyindalene (Akira), Abhimanigale Nammane Devru (Doddmane Hudga) and Yaakingagidhe (Raajakumara).
While he kept delivering some significant films, the actor looked beyond the silver screen and made his debut on television with the Kannada version of KBC, Kannadadha Kotyadipathi. What struck a chord with audiences from not only cities but also rural Karnataka was how approachable and warm Puneeth was to the contestants on the show. His friendly banter and welcoming smile made the show an instant hit garnering high TRPs. While he aced his role as the host, the star was keen to give fresh talent a break, and Puneet turned producer with PRK Productions that films such as Kavaludaari, Mayabazar 2016, Law, French Biriyani, and Family Pack were helmed under his leadership. It was not only his on-screen persona that made him a true icon, Puneeths work as a philanthropist with orphanages, schools, and old-age homes, made him a hero in the lives of many people in Karnataka.
In the industry, everyone, who interacted with him, whether it was a newcomer or an established actor, knew him for his humility. Puneeth will remain etched in the hearts of his fans and followers for his kindness. His last film to release that won the hearts of his fans was Yuvarathnaa that released earlier this year. His next big movie is James, which is yet to release.
A doting father to two daughters, a dedicated husband to Ashwini Puneeth, a loving brother to actors Shivarajkumar, Raghavendra Rajkumar, and two sisters Poornima and Lakshmi, the youngest member of the illustrious Rajkumar family, Appu, will be sorely missed.