Puneeth was known for his philanthropy. Even in death, this gesture continued as he donated his eyes.
A film icon's son, but a star in his own right. A star, but a humble soul. Wealthy, but an open-hearted giver. That was Kannada film star Puneeth Rajkumar, who passed after a heart attack in Bengaluru on Friday at the young age of 46.
'Power Star' to crores of his fans, Puneeth was a child artiste, making his screen debut when he was just six months old in the 1976 super-hit movie Premada Kanike, in which the lead role was essayed by his father -- the matinee idol Dr Rajkumar. Born on March 17, 1976, the third and last son of Dr Rajkumar and Parvathamma, Puneeth was known as Lohith in his initial days of acting.
He won the National Award when he was just 10 years old for his memorable performance as Ramu in the movie Bettada Hoovu. As a much-loved child artiste, he worked in 14 films, including Vasantha Geetha (1980), Bhagyavantha (1981), Chalisuva Modagalu (1982), Eradu Nakshatragalu (1983) Bhakta Prahalada and Yarivanu among others.
He made his full-fledged debut as a lead actor with Appu (2002), a runaway hit. The streak continued with his second film, Abhi, and he went to act in 29 more movies, many of them super hits like Arasu and Milana, raking in crores. But it was Jackie and Anna Bond that took him to the stratosphere of superstardom. The biggest box-office collection, however, came from Rajakumara, which earned a little less than Rs 100 crore, while the spend was just one-tenth of that. His intense roles in Prithvi and Mythri made a mark with the critics too. Apart from his National Award, he won six State Awards, including two for Best Actor in Milana and Jackie. One of the highest-paid stars of the industry, he had, at the time of passing on, almost completed shooting for James. The production of the 90-minute Gandhada Gudi is over, and its release date was to be announced on November 1.
Describing himself as 'Actor-Singer-Producer - The World of Cinema then now and forever!' on his social media profile, he had the liking for true and offbeat cinema, producing Kavaludaari, Maya Bazar and French Biriyani through his PRK Productions. Family Pack, Man of the Match and O2 were at different stages of production. He encouraged and nurtured new talent, prodding his directors and actors to take the unbeaten path, the one probably he could not afford to take.
Like his father, he too was a natural, born singer. His song Baana Daariyalli in the movie Bhagyavantharu is hummed by many even to this day. So was Bisile Irali from Bettada Hoovu. Over the years, he sang numerous songs for his films and also for other actors. True to his nature, he never personally used the proceeds from singing and gave it all away to charity. A proven multi-talented artiste, he ran the music production house under the label, PRK Audio.
Be it running orphanages, schools, homes for the elderly, goshalas, and providing free education to over 1,500 children, Puneeth was known for his philanthropy. Even in death, this gesture continued as he donated his eyes.
A hero, he was always ready to give a push to smaller artistes, appearing in cameo roles in movies like Paddehuli, Humble Politician Nograj and Lucky Man, which is yet to be released.
Friday was to be the day of celebration for Sandalwood with the release of Puneeth's brother, Shivarajkumar's big-ticket flick, Bhajarangi-2. The sad and unexpected news broke when the second screening of the movie was half-way through, pulling a pall of gloom over the film industry and pushing entire Karnataka into deep mourning.