November 25, 2009
His late father, Kannada filmdom’s legendary icon, 'Annavru' Dr Rajkumar is his role model and still lives in his heart, says Puneet Rajkumar, currently one of the leading stars in Sandalwood. Clearly in awe of his father, who is his inspiration Puneet says that he is following in the footsteps of Rajkumar and most of all loved his humble nature and endearing smile. Though Puneet cannot be compared to his father, one meeting is sure to convince that the actor has inherited the same smile and humble personality.
Thanks to Daya Kirodian, one of the organizing committee members of Karnataka Sangha, Daijiworld got the opportunity meet and chat with this 34-year-old young Kannada actor, who was here as one of the guests at the World Kannada Cultural Convention organized by Karnataka Sangha Dubai on November 20 and 21, successfully.
Kannada Movie Premier in Dubai
Though Puneeth is a regular visitor to Dubai, it is for the first time after 18 years that he attended a public function. He recalls that it was in 1991 he first visited Dubai with his legendary father. He was too young at the time. He expressed his surprise at the very conducive atmosphere here for Kannada movies and wanted to know why no Kannada movies are premiered here.
"I heard that lots of Telugu movies are premiered here, but why not Kannada? I am sure Kannada audiences outnumber Telugu audiences here. I am seriously thinking of releasing my next Kannada movie here. People love Kannada here and love Kannada movies too. I am confident that after passing the initial hurdles, many Kannada producers and directors will come forward to release Kannada movies, Puneet added on a serious note.
"With strengthened Kannada associations, audiences and media like Daijiworld and Radio Spice, one need not make marathon efforts to premiere Kannada movies here" he said. "In the United States of America lots of Kannada movies are released. AKKA, the premier Kannada organization wonderfully supports such initiatives. As far as popularity of Kannada is concerned, UAE stands next only to USA. Australia too has a good number of audiences. My movie, Akash was already successfully released there, he said.
From Lohit to Puneet
He was a child prodigy and had won a national award as a child artiste for the movie 'Bettada Hoovu' in 1986. He was then popularly known as Master Lohit Rajkumar, which was his original name. 'Kanadante Mayavadanu' sung by the star in the 1982 movie, Chalisuva Modagalu is immensely popular even today after over 25 years of its release.
"I really do not know why my name was changed from Lohit to Puneet. I think you need to ask my mother about this," says Puneet with a smile. He agreed to the query that it could well have been a move taken as per his horoscope. It was in 1985 that he was renamed as Puneet Rajkumar.
As a child artiste, he acted in more than 12 movies.
Entry as Hero
Puneeth made a stunning entry into Sandawood in 2002 through Appu in a lead role which proved to be his ideal launching pad as it went on to be a super hit. His next two movies, Abhi and Veera Kannadiga released in 2003 and 2004, respectively too set the box office ringing establishing him as one of the most bankable heroes in Sandalwood. He is said to be particularly choosy about the script.
So far, Puneet known as Power Star has acted in about 11 films with him as solo lead. His recent release, Raj, the showman was rated a flop both by the media and critics. But Puneet defers with this verdict and says that though the film may not have created the required media hype, I must say its box office collections have definitely proved that it is a hit. Yet, some section of the media has given a thumbs down to the movie dubbing it a flop, which I do not advocate, Puneet clarifies.
Puneet is an exceptionally good dancer. For the query, "At the moment you are a top dancing movie star in Kannada, do you agree?" he says, “Sir, I am absolutely not. My brother Shivanna (Shiv Rajkumar) is my hero, and will always remain a star dancer, a notch high above all. But its true that I love to dance, but I do not want a tag that I am the best dancer in Kannada film industry today. As far as dance is concerned, I drew a lot of inspiration from pop king, Michael Jackson, adds Puneet.
'Ram', home production is his next project. It is almost complete and thereafter he will be busy with other three projects namely 'Jacky' and ‘Prithvi'. Another project is yet to be named. He is immensely satisfied as an actor, but says it is a constant learning process. He mostly acts in his home projects, which is looked after by his elder brother Raghavendra Rajkumar and his mother Parvathamma Rajkumar.
'Mungaru Male' Controversy
Mungaru Male is one of the biggest hits in the recent years as far as box office collections and audience popularity is concerned. Though Puneet admits it is true, but rejects the talk that Mungaru Male is the all time hit movie in Kannada filmdom.
"When you compare the movies released in last two to three years, Mungaru Male is definitely a huge hit. But I must say, Om, my brother Shiv Rajkumar’s movie is sure the biggest hit in the last 20 years. It stood at the top for many years and not for a year or two. However, Mungaru Male is a very good movie and a new star Ganesh emerged from the movie.
Puneet admits that, director of Mungaru Male offered him the lead role and that he rejected the same that he did not the fit the role. He denies the allegations leveled against him that the he refused the role as he did not want to act against rank newcomer Pooja Gandhi.
“I have no regrets for rejecting the role. Probably the movie would not have had become such a huge hit, If I had agreed to do the role. Perhaps it turned out to be a huge hit as the lead role was played by Ganesh, he analyzes and adds that Ganesh did a great job in the movie.
Puneeth with his wife Ashwini
His Dreams for Filmdom
Puneet dreams of setting up his own studio in Bangalore and also feels that there are no proper training institutes available in the state for young aspiring actors. He predicts a better future for Kannada movies despite tough competition from movies made in other languages.
"Year 2009 has been bad for Kannada film industry with a marathon 120 movies released so far. The audience have more or less remained the same. Cricket matches too affect movie shows, but if we compete and beat Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam movies, then we have no fear of domination by the outsiders. The recent IT revolution in Bangalore city has had a lot of impact on movies that are released. More and more Hindi and movies of the other languages have found encouraging audiences here. Meanwhile, it is heartening that Kannada movies are still patronized by the loyal fan following which has not diminished, he added.
Though 'Appaji' late Dr Rajkumar is everything for him, late Shankar Nag too was one of his favourite heroes. To polish his acting skills, he watches a lot of foreign movies made in languages such as Enlgish, Italian, French, German and others. "I never watch my own movies for I always think that I would have performed better,” he says honestly.
Though he sang for couple of his movies, he nurses no passion for singing. "In one way, I can say I was 'forced' to sing for it does not fascinate me as much. Moreover, I am surprised that the songs sung by me like "Taliban" in movie Appu is one of the big hits. I want to concentrate fully on acting in movies," he stresses.
’Sampathige Saval', late Rajkumar’s movie is Puneet’s favourite movie and the song "Yaare Koogadali" is his favourite number. Puneet is happily married to Ashwini for last ten years and is blessed with two lovely daughters.