Warm, humble, and never affected by stardom: How the industry remembers Puneeth Rajkumar

The celebrated actor died after a cardiac arrest on Oct 29, 2021, leaving scores of bereaved fans, as well as friends and family.

ByLaasya Shekhar
Warm, humble, and never affected by stardom: How the industry remembers Puneeth Rajkumar
Gobindh VB
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The unexpected death of Kannada actor Puneeth Rajkumar, 46, on October 29 shattered the film community and those who knew him. The youngest son of actors Rajkumar and Parvathamma, Puneeth had a cardiac arrest on Friday morning. He was taken to the intensive care unit of Bengaluru’s Vikram Hospital, where doctors said there was “no cardiac activity”.

He was put on a ventilator but died soon after. Fans, friends and family members later paid their respects at Kanteerava Stadium, where his body was kept, while condolences poured in on social media.

Actor and director Raj B Shetty told Newslaundry that Puneeth was a “warm person with a great aura surrounding him”. He recalled visiting Puneeth’s house on several occasions and how the actor had even asked director Radhakrishna Reddy to cast Shetty in the movie Mayabazaar 2016 in 2020.

“This shows how much he encouraged new talent,” he said. “The way he invited people home, it was as if you were his blood brother or close relative.”

He remembered being intimidated during one of his first interactions with Puneeth, who was surrounded by a large crowd at the time. “But when he came to speak to me,” he added, “I realised how humble Puneeth was.”

Puneeth was never affected by the stardom. “He once asked me if I had watched a particular movie of him. When I said I didn’t, he asked me not to watch it as it was a disaster,” says Raj B Shetty. “Who would say something like that when surrounded by a crowd? He always liked criticism,” Raj B Shetty adds.

Puneeth was a fitness enthusiast and loved shooting. “He was so excited to speak about his hobbies,” Raj B Shetty adds.

Actor and former Lok Sabha MP Divya Spandana, who acted in three films with Puneeth, told Newslaundry: “More than costars, we were friends.” Their friendship developed on the sets of Abhi, which was Spandana’s acting debut, in 2003. She recalled how he helped her learn the steps for a dance sequence.

“I still cannot believe I am talking about him in the past tense,” she said.

“He never rejected giving an autograph to his fans. He even would take time to ask them their whereabouts,” Divya Spandana says.

Actor Sudha Rani told Newslaundry she had acted with Puneeth during his time as a child star. “We are close family friends,” she said. In 1980, she recalled, while shooting for the movie Bhagyavantha outside Chamundeswari studios in Bengaluru, she and Puneeth would often tease each other. “He was such a prankster,” she said. “He used to call me ‘ma’am’ to irritate me.”

Even as a child, she said, Puneeth had a way of encouraging people. “He always used to give me chocolate after a good shot,” Sudha said.

Photographer G Venket Ram has known Puneeth Rajkumar since 2006 when the duo worked together for a Kannada movie Ajay. “He always reached on time. I admired his energy and discipline,” Venket Ram said.

During the shoot, when Venket Ram suggested doing an action from the terrace, the actor immediately agreed. “The original plan was to do the shot in the studio itself. But as the studio was unorganised, I suggested doing it on the terrace and the actor agreed without a blink in his eye,” Venket Ram recollected. The duo also worked on many commercials together.

“I am devastated by the news. I am not able to come to terms with Puneeth’s death and am not in a position to express,” said Director Radhakrishna Reddy, who made his debut with Mayabazaar 2016 under Puneeth’s PRK banner.

Priyamani, who has worked on Raam and Anna Bond with Puneeth Rajkumar, and starred in Amazon series The Family Man says that the superstar's sudden demise is "hard to process."

"We are not the closest of friends. But I could reach out to him whenever I needed something. That's the kind of comfort he gave everyone," Priyamani told Newslaundry.

There always was a competition between the two of them when it came to dancing. "Both of us wanted to be the best," Priyamani says.

Priyamani recalled the generosity of the late actor during a forest shoot. "He offered his vanity van to me and my mother — the only two women on the set. This shows how humble a person he was," Priyamani adds.

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