Dwarakish, a showman whose passion fuelled a golden period in Kannada cinema

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Dwarakish in Kulla Agent 000.

Dwarakish in Kulla Agent 000.
| Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

Dwarakish was Kannada cinema’s prachanda kulla, who never let his short stature get in the way of his passion for films. As an actor and producer, Dwarakish fuelled Kannada cinema’s golden phase in the late 1970s and 1980s. Marked by the top-notch production value and sustained entertainment, films such as Bhagyavantharu (1977), Kittu Puttu (1977), Singaporenalli Raja Kulla (1978), Manku Thimma (1980), Guru Shishyaru (1981), and others became blockbusters.

First showman

“He was Kannada cinema’s first showman, a moniker later given to V. Ravichandran,” says senior film writer and author S. Shyam Prasad. “He didn’t slot himself as a comedian and became a hero. Nobody in the Kannada film industry had even imagined shooting a film in Africa, but he pulled it off with Africadalli Sheela (1986),” says Mr. Prasad. Earlier, he had shot Singaporenalli Raja Kulla, starring himself and Vishnuvardhan, in Singapore, making it the first Kannada film to be shot abroad.

The logo of Dwarakish Chitra begins with a Karnataka map, and we see Dwarakish roaring like a lion before he breaks into laughter, an idea inspired by the iconic MGM logo. “The logo describes Dwarakish, the artiste. A comedian who loved Kannada cinema,” says Mr. Prasad.

His mighty success notwithstanding, critics and detractors tagged him as “remake raja” (remake king), as more than 50% of films from his banner were remakes. “He felt Kannadigas didn’t give him the recognition he deserved. He faced a hostile situation in Bengaluru, forcing him to move to Chennai,” says senior film writer S. Shiva Kumar.

Shift to Chennai

The shift in place led him to work with Tamil superstar Rajinikanth in Adutha Varisu (1983) and Gangvaa (1984). “Fond memories come to my mind. The demise of my long-time friend is very painful,” wrote Rajinikanth on social media.

After a purple patch, flops landed him in financial debt. Dwarakish sold some of his properties to survive in the industry. “During his prime, he led a lavish lifestyle and hosted gala New Year parties. He lived like a king, and he also lived like a pauper,” says Mr. Prasad, summing up the life of an outspoken artiste who never forgot to smile even in the toughest of situations.

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