Vishnuvardhan, the charismatic icon of Kannada cinema, died of cardiac arrest in Mysore in the early hours of Wednesday. He had complained of chest pain around 2.15 a.m. and died on way to hospital. The 59-year-old actor had been ill for some time, and more recently was being treated for a leg injury he sustained while shooting for a film.
The news of his death was received with shock and disbelief in Bangaluru. His body was moved to the National College grounds in Basavanagudi around 11.30 a.m. The police estimated the turnout of mourners at the National College grounds at around four lakh.
The Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC) has said that actor Vishnuvardhan’s death has created a vacuum which cannot be filled.
Vishnuvardhan arrived on the Kannada silver screen in 1970 as Sampath Kumar (or “Kumara” in theatre circles) in a film by the late B.V. Karanth, based on S.L. Bhyrappa’s novel Vamshavruksha in which he acted with Girish Karnad.
His next assignment was the commercial film Nagarahavu directed by the veteran director S. R. Puttanna Kanagal. The film was launched at a time when the new wave cinema had announced its presence with Pattabhirama Reddy’s film based on U.R. Ananthamurthy’s Samskara, and Vamvashavriksha.
Right from Nagarahavu to Dinesh Baboo’s Ballari Naga, Vishnuvardhan acted in more than 200 films. His last film Aptha Rakshaka is yet to be released. His major films include Bootayyana Maga Ayyu, Hombisilu, Sahasa Simha, Devara Gudi, Nagarahole, Malaya Maruta, Simha Jodi, Bandhana, Muthina Haara, Jimmi Gallu, Simhadriya Simha, Nishkarsha, Aptha Mithra, Suryavamsha, Mathad Mathad Mallige and Yajamana.
Vishnuvardhan starred in Tamil movies such as “Viduthalai” and “Sri Raghavendra” with Rajnikanth. He also co-starred with ace Malayalam actor, Mammooty in “Kauravar”
He received the Film Fare award for life time achievement in 2004, and the Dr. Rajkumar award in 2008. His film Suprabhata created a record of sorts in 1988 by bagging awards in eight categories.
Vishnuvardhan, who stayed away from active politics, once said that he was not against politics but certainly not after power. He was also known for his personal involvement in many charitable causes.
May his soul rest in peace.