Dr. Rajkumar: Unofficial brand ambassador of Yoga in Karnataka

Dr. Rajkumar, who can be called as the Father of Kannada Cinema was known for his humility and acting prowess all across India. Popularly known as Nata Saarvabhouma, Bangarada Manushya, Vara Nata and Rajanna, he is considered as one of the finest actors in the history of Indian cinema. But there was more to him. He was devoted to Yoga. Vedanth explores this hidden facet of his personality.

The legendary actor Dr. Rajkumar, always believed that mental and physical fitness is the core of an artiste’s life. Therefore he took to Yoga and Pranayama. Rajkumar took up to Yoga at the age of 50. In 1979, Rajkumar was suffering from a severe backache. However, he did not reveal this to anyone as he was scared that his family members will not allow him to act in films and this will affect his producers, who had invested in him. At this juncture, it was H F Naikar, who initiated the actor into Yoga and helped Rajkumar regain his mental and physical strength.

H F Naikar told Dr. Rajkumar that he will again make Dr. Rajkumar feel like a 18-year-old. Dr. Rajkumar initially scoffed at this assertion. However, when he educated himself on the benefits of yoga, he decided to give it a try.

This was a turning point in his career. Initially, the actor used to get up at 4.30 am every day and practice for nearly an hour. After a few days, his back pain was gone. Realising its efficacy, he took it up seriously.

His fluency at Yoga can be seen in the film “Kamanabillu”. The director Dattaraj remembers shooting for a scene one particularly chilly morning. “In the film, we were taking some shots of yoga postures of Dr. Rajkumar early in the morning. The whole team was shivering with cold. But Dr. Rajkumar, who was only wearing a loincloth, went on calmly doing yoga, without even a hint of a shiver. He had become an expert in Yoga and was very disciplined.”

Dr. Rajkumar was an idol to millions of his fans. They used to follow his words and actions. We all know how thousands of people left their jobs and returned to villages to do farming after watching “BangaradaManushya”. Same was the effect of “Kamanabillu”. Sathish, a hardcore fan of Dr. Rajkumar said, “Dr. Rajkumar is known to have that mesmerizing effect on his fans. They were crazy about him. People used to adore him so much. They used to follow his words blindly. When he did Yoga in “Kamanabillu”, it became a craze. His fans too started to emulate him and practise Yoga. Such was the craze that the state government decided to support Yoga and recommended all schools to include it in their curriculum. Until Dr. Rajkumar took up Yoga, it had no movement as a scientific way of healing oneself or remaining fit and free of disease. But Dr. Rajkumar changed everything when he started to promote Yoga through his films and speech. He became a brand ambassador of Yoga unofficially.”

Agreeing with the same, Manjushree, a Yoga teacher based in Bengaluru said, “Dr. Rajkumar was very instrumental in making Yoga popular. He always used to inform us of the benefits of Yoga in his speeches. He inspired many to take up Yoga. While in recent years, Baba Ramdev can be called as India’s ambassador for Yoga – He has persuaded the Government to celebrate June 21st as an international day of yoga – in the 80’s it was undoubtedly Dr. Rajkumar. The best part, however, is that Dr. Rajkumar was that he did not exploit Yoga commercially. He just propagated it for the benefit of mankind. Today Yoga has become an easy money making business. However, that was not the case then.”

Dr. Rajkumar did not give up Yoga even when he was held captive by forest brigand Veerappan and this helped him maintain his physical and mental health and balance during those tough days. It is said Rajkumar used to do several aasanas for at least a couple of hours in the forest and kept himself totally fit. Gopal, who played peacemaker between the Government of Karnataka and Veerappan was shocked when he saw Dr. Rajkumar perfectly fit after his sojourn in the forest. Being a 73-year-old, he expected Dr. Rajkumar to be fragile and weak. However, he was shocked to find Dr. Rajkumar fit as a fiddle. When Gopal questioned Rajkumar what is the secret behind him being fit in forests, Rajkumar responded saying that Yoga was the reason.

It is said that on an average, Rajkumar spent about three and a half hours on yoga each day. Initially, he used to go to the gym. However, after taking up Yoga, he decided to skip going to the gym. Dr. Rajkumar was so immersed in Yoga, that he wanted to experience the ultimate levels of Yoga. Dr. Rajkumar often told his yoga teacher that he wanted to reach the level of siddhis. He wanted to experience Parakayapravesh siddhi (entering into other’s body) and ateendriyajnaana (telepathy). It is said in the final phase of Rajkumar’s life he achieved whatever he wanted.

Dr. Rajkumar has left his mark on the development of Yoga as a means of mass physical and mental fitness. Even though gym has become the first step for building body mass, Yoga is now being followed by many young actors to maintain their mental and physical fitness.

Many actresses in sandalwood too have taken to Yoga to maintain their physique and reduce the anxiety of a stressful life.

ShwethaSrivastav, Radhika Pandit, Parul Yadav and SanjanaGalrani are some of the actresses who practise Yoga on a regular basis. SanjanaGalrani has gone a step ahead and started her own Yoga academy in Bengaluru which is benefiting numerous people.

Dr. Rajkumar’s son Shivarajkumar also recently revealed in a media interaction that Yoga had had a lot of positive effect on Dr. Rajkumar. He said he too was in love with Yoga.

Even though Dr. Rajkumar is not alive today, his legacy lives on and many must be thankful to him for inspiring them to take up Yoga as we approach the International Yoga Day.

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