The Kannada film industry was plunged into grief as Dr Parvathamma Rajkumar, veteran producer and wife of the late legendary actor Dr Rajkumar, passed away on Wednesday at 4.40am. She was 78.
Parvathamma had been admitted into the Intensive Care Unit of MS Ramaiah Hospital in Bengaluru on May 18 with kidney-related ailments and respiratory problems.
Speaking to TNM, Dr Naresh, who was treating Parvathamma said, "The cancer had spread to the lungs and liver, which lead to multiple organ failure. She did not respond to the treatment that was provided and passed away at 4.40am."
Parvathamma's eyes have been donated to the Narayana Nethralaya, as per her wish.
Her body has been shifted to the Rajkumar residence in Bengaluru. Reports suggest the body will be kept at Poornaprajna school grounds at Sadashivanagar for the public to pay homage.
Parvathamma was one of the most influential members of the Kannada film industry and possibly the most successful producer in the industry.
Born in Saligrama near KR Nagar in Mysuru district in 1939, Parvathamma was married to Dr Rajkumar at the young age of 14. According to reports, her marriage had been agreed to from the time she was born. However, in some interviews, Parvathamma indicated that her mother had been against the idea of her marrying an actor with a travelling theatre company.
Parvathamma with Rajkumar. Courtesy: Youtube/Cineadda
Within a year after their marriage, Dr Rajkumar made his acting debut in Bedara Kannappa. However, it would be a few more years before Dr Rajkumar became a known face in the industry and the offers started flowing in.
Through Dr Rajkumar’s theatre career and then his film career, Parvathamma was a constant presence by his side. As she accompanied him through rehearsals and film shoots, she also began to learn about the profession. Over the years, she took over the entire business and logistical side of her husband’s career, giving him the opportunity to concentrate entirely on his work as an actor.
Parvathamma’s turn to production came out of an incident that reportedly almost spelled the end of Dr Rajkumar’s acting career. In the 1970s, a few producers began to publicly complain that they had lost money making films with the star. Hurt by their comments, Dr Rajkumar contemplated leaving the industry.
Parvathamma and Rajkumar with Amitabh Bachchan
At this point, Parvathamma stepped in, taking on the producer’s role for the film Trimurthi, which became a great success. But it was the 1978 film Shankar Guru that established her reputation as a producer, as also the Rajkumars' reputation for encouraging local talent.
According to industry insiders, the original four producers of the film walked out of the project when Dr Rajkumar objected to their plans to cast Bollywood actors like Hema Malini and Amjad Khan. Parvathamma once again stepped in to produce the film, which also became a massive hit.
In over 40 years of her career, she produced and distributed over 80 films under the banners of Poornima Enterprises and Sri Vajreswari Combines, including memorable movies of her husband like Halu Jenu, Kavirathna Kalidasa, Jeevana Chaitra and Akasmika. She also launched and established the careers of her sons – Shivrajkumar with his debut film Anand and later hits like Om and Janumada Jodi, Raghavendra Rajkumar with the hit film Nanjundi Kalyana, and Puneeth Rajkumar with films like Appu, Hudugaru and Rajakumara.
Parvathamma is also credited with launching a number of other actors in the industry including Sudha Rani, Anu Prabhakar, Ramya and Rakshita.
Although associated with cinema for over four decades, Parvathamma never appeared before the camera even in a guest role.
As with her production career, Parvathamma has maintained a strong presence in the industry and public life, even through difficult times like the abduction of Dr Rajkumar by Veerappan in 2000, and his death in 2006.
In recent years, she had taken a step back from active production, leaving more of the business to her sons, particularly Raghavendra Rajkumar.
For her contribution to Kannada cinema, Parvathamma had received a number of awards including the Kannada Rajyotsava Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Karnataka Government. In 2015, she was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Bengaluru University.
Parvathamma receiving her doctorate. Courtesy: Youtube/Sandalwood Central