The public sculptures of Dr. Rāj Kumār, Vishnuwardhan and Kuvempu in Bengaluru- Venkatesh N

On the 79th birthday anniversary of Kannada film actor Dr. Rāj Kumār, 1 a bust of the actor was installed on the K.H.Road near Santosh Cinema by Dr. Rāj Kumār Fans Association. The then Chief Minister H.D.Kumaraswamy after unveiling the statue said that the actor had not been a mere actor but one who had fought for the State’s land and water. The statue would serve as a constant reminder to the public of his personality, and would inspire people to adopt some of his ideals. The statue is situated in the prime location, in the heart of the Kannada film industry. There was a public debate about the installation of the statue of Dr. Rāj Kumār’s full profile 12” height bronze statue2 below the statue of Kittur Rani Chennamma in a small park within the parking slot close to Town Hall. BBMP has estimated the cost to be Rs.25 lakh. One of the intensions of the debate was to question the architect of the proposal BBMP of its intension of installing the statue in the current location. The others were about appropriate depiction of the actor to suite the place of installation. Most of the fans voted for the actor’s portrayal in the film Kasturi Nivasa with a dove on the tragic hero’s right shoulder. There also appeared to be a lot of support for the depiction of the actor as king Mallasarja, a character he played in the film Kittur Rani Chennamma, in which he played the Rani’s husband. This statue of the actor has not been installed till today.

The bust of Rāj Kumār as Kaviratna Kaalidasa

Former minister P G R Sindhia3 had demanded that the government install a statue of Rāj Kumār in front of Vidhana Soudha in recognition of his contribution for the cause of Kannada. He was speaking at a function to install the matinee idols bronze statue in front of Binny Mills at Cottonpet here on Sunday by Dr. Rāj Kumār Abhimanigala Balaga. Extolling Rāj Kumār’s apolitical approach and outlook, Mr. Sindhia said Rāj Kumār could have become the chief minister and a frontline political leader at the national level if he had contested against Indira Gandhi at the historic byelection to lok sabha from Chikmagalur in November 1978.he further said by refusing to enter politics, Rāj Kumār had remained an unvanquished cultural hero of the people of the state even after his death.
Rāj Kumār is very much known in Kannada public sphere because of him heralding the state language kannada through his film dialogues and film songs. He had also participated in many pro kannada protests, had remained acting only in the kannada language films. These play a very important role in building his public personality. The kidnapping of Rāj Kumār had made the re-negotiation of kannada linguistic identity, of what being kannada means. One of the important conditions of Veerappan was unveil the statue of Thiruvalluvar in Bangalore. The then chief minister of Karnataka, S. M. Krishna had agreed to unveil the statue on January 14th of 2001. What was also negotiated was the manhood of the kannada cultural icon, the manhood he had portrayed in his films. His acting skills have earned him title “nata saarvabhouma”. It is this mnemonic significance that places the sculptures of Rāj Kumār in the public sphere.
By the time Rāj Kumār came to signify the Kannada identity and civilization. In Karnataka the linguistic nationalistic movements did not take off as it did in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. M. G. Ramachandran (M.G.R) was the representative of the socially transforming and the Tamil resurgence. Because of the popularity on silver screen and making films imparting moral to the society. He started a new political party A.I.A.D.M.K (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) with his public personality formed through his films, separated from the earlier dominant D.M.K. (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam). What the superstar stood for in the films was also reflected in the election results. M. G. R became the Chief Minister of the state. Karunanidhi a poet and lyricist for Tamil films was a part of the D.M.K party. In Andhra Pradesh N.T.Ramarao (N.T.R) was what M.G.R was in Tamil Nadu. Many of his very popular films did not deal with imparting moral to the society; they were based on Hindu mythology. There was no Tamil Nadu like nationalistic movement in Andhra Pradesh. The historical differences between the Telangana and the Andhra’s was analogous to the friction between the Telugu and the Nizam promoted Urdu giving rise to the political party Telugu Desam, As N.T.R puts it.
Karnataka along with Kannadigas the state also has a sizeable population of Konkani, Tulu, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Hindi and many other communities speaking different languages. Over the years no single force could unify the different linguistic communities into a single nationalistic movement. Rāj Kumār was projected as the unbeaten cultural icon of Kannada culture and civilization by aspiring groups who wanted to cut across the linguistic lines. In the early 1980’s the Gokak Movement for the primacy of local language, education and administration by educationist and laureate V.K.Gokak came closest to the all-encompassing nationalistic upsurge in the state. Until then Rāj Kumār who was a superstar, came to the public arena and gave a massive boost to the movement. There were debate and discussions predicting the superstar’s coming to politics from the films. Later his disinterest in the politics was made clear. However the consequences of Gokak Movement and Rāj Kumār’s public backing of it turned him into icon of Kannada linguistic aspirations. He reaffirmed his personal commitment to Kannada by publicly promising not to act in other language films. Under his influence the remaking of Kannada films from other languages were banned for many years. Later showed his loyalty by shifting his residence from Chennai to Bengaluru during late 1980’s when the conflicts regarding the Cauvery water dispute was going on between the two states. Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, Vatal Nagaraj and many others were working towards these aspirations. With the death of Rāj Kumār and the growing cosmopolitanism in the capital Bengaluru, the movements have soared down. Rāj Kumār Abhimaanigala Balaga (Rāj Kumār’s Fans Association) was also left without any broad agenda. They were meeting in their assembly, showing their power in meetings, and programs were organized about the superstar, where he was the subject. There were innumerable admirers and fans from of all classes. But the fans in the Sangha came from the economically less privileged section and had anger towards being marginalized. Had the movement been taken off the fans would have converted it into their cadre. The protests that aroused after his kidnap and death show this mindset.
The bust of Rāj Kumār as Kaviratna Kaalidasa, the role he portrayed in the same film is installed in the Upparpet Junction. The bust is installed inside a mantapa built for the statue. The mantapa is called kaashipatimantapa. The mantapa is decorated with an image of Lakshmi on the top with two elephants holding lotus flower in their trunks.
The statue is installed by Dr. Rāj Kumār Kantheerava Mitravrunda. It was unveiled by the then Chief Minister B. S. Yeddiyurappa on 30th August 2010. The panel on the pedestal mentions the presence of Smt. Parvatamma Rāj Kumār, Sri. Shiva Rāj Kumār, Sri. Raghavendra Rāj Kumār, Sri. Puneeth Rāj Kumār and other family members. The chief guests of the unveiling ceremony were transport minister R. Ashok, S. K. Nataraj Commissioner of B.B.M.P, P.C.Mohan M.P, Dinesh Gundurao M.L.A, Sa. Ra. Govindu president of Akhila Karnataka Dr. Rāj Kumār Abhimaanigala Sangha. The panel also mentions the names of corporators and others who have supported the installation of the statue.
A bust in Gandhi Bazaar shows him as a soldier from the film sipaayi raamu. There are busts of Rāj Kumār portrayed in film roles at various places in Bengaluru. These sculptures narrate the film. When these sculptures are observed, most of the sculptures have the same face mould while his dress is added to the face mould. Most of the busts of Rāj Kumār in Karnataka is by the artist Shivakumar. He has also executed one bust and one full profile sculpture of the Kannada film actor Vishnuvardhan. The busts are at Abhimaan Studio and Laggere unveiled in 2010, a full profile statue of Vishnuvardhan as protagonist in the film aaptarakshaka is installed in Goripalya. The statue is contributed by J.D.S party president. The statue is very vibrantly made in fiber glass. The statue is located in the interior part of Goripalya not easily accessible to the public. The B.R.Ambedkar statue in Goripalya gets an important location at the park in the circle near the main bus stand of the area. The statue is painted in golden colour. Because of the colour the statue glows to the sun light and gets looked. The statue is placed in public park where people from the neighborhood meet and recreate. A statue of Vivekananda is installed inside the park attached to Ulsoor lake. The statue’s gesture and mannerism is taken from the Vivekananda Memorial at Kanyakumari. The park is surrounded by the various Central Government institutions, Defence institutes (Madras Sappers and others), and the neighbourhood Ulsoor has a Defence factory M.E.G (Madras Engineers Group). The Ulsoor lake also has a rowing institute. The placement of the image of Vivekananda gives to it the repute of nation building and self defence.
The full profile statue of Kannada laureate Kuvempu (Kuppalli Venkatappa Putappa) in the main entrance of Freedom Park. The sculpture is made of bronze. The figure shows the laureate to be aged between sixty to sixtyfive. This was the peak of his literary career; he was awarded with the prestigious jnanpith award. He had also retired from his pedagogic service. The pamphlet circulated during the unveiling ceremony revealing the intention of installation, lists the contribution of the laureate to the nation and the state. Whenever a statue is unveiled there is a stress of the person’s contribution for the nation and state. This is how a nation and state is built through these public sculptures. The making of the statue took at least two years. The artist of the statue B. D. Jagadish tells that the making of the statue was matter of Kuvempu’s family. The statue was often checked for resemblance by the family members of Kuvempu. The statue weighs around 800kgs. The sand and stone required for the making of the pedestal was brought from the birth place of the laureate4.

saahasa simha
statue of Vishnuvardhan

The pamphlet about the intention of installing the statue was circulated during the unveiling program. According to this pamphlet the core intentions that necessitated the installation of the statue were the message of universal human by the laureate, his contribution towards the Karnataka unification through literature; many poems with philosophical and nationalist interests are mentioned. The unveiling ceremony on 27th February was continued by celebrations and ceremonies that relived the literature of the laureate in the form of singing the songs and playing skits written by the poet. In the exhibition catalogue of sthalapuranagalu a show curated by artist Pushpamala. N identifies a castist power politics behind the installation of these sculptures.
The sculptures of Dr. Rāj Kumār, Vishnuvardhan and Kuvempu become pivotal sculptures in defining the notion of state through their presence in public. While the statues of Rāj Kumār getting prominent locations and abundance of being installed for every kilometer of two. The placement of the statue in the more prominent places displays the power and strength of the associations those who have installed the sculptures. Thus the sculpture will be looked by many according to its placement in the public area.

1. The Hindu, april 25, 2007.
2. The Hindu, july 20 2007.
3. The Hindu, May 07, 2007
4. Interview with the artist of the Kuvempu statue in Freedom Park – B. D. Jagadish.

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