As the year 2009 draws to a close…

…the people of Karnataka are not left with much to cheer about. The final few days have only taken away some of the most-loved doyens of the Kannada film and music industry – first C.Ashwath and now Dr.Vishnuvardhan. While it was difficult enough to come to terms with the fact that Ashwath – a truly one of the kind singer whose kanchina kanttha is unmatched, is no more going to be heard; the very next morning brought an even bigger blow – the news that Dr.Vishnuvardhan – one of the most charming and versatile actors of the Kannada film industry had passed away at the mere age of 59.

Whenever Ashwath took centrestage he would literally set it on fire with his exuberant and passionate performance. His voice is to be heard to be believed – loud, melodius and reverberating with energy, it would give anyone listening goosebumps. Though I never had the opportunity to witness any of his performances live, I have dearly loved so many of his songs. His contribution to Kannada sugama sangeetha and film music is immense, but he was also one of the people who had a hand in resurrecting the bhaava geetha genre of Kannada music and made it as popular and favourite as film songs. He popularized so many of the poets’ compositions by bringing out song collections in the voices of promising voices of veterans and new-comers alike, thereby encouraging the infusion of fresh blood into the music world. He has also composed music for dozens of movies and tele-serials – all of T.N.Seetharam’s much-loved serials ranging from Mayamruga to Manvantara to Mukta-Mukta owe some part of their popularity to their excellent title tracks composed and sung by Ashwath. He has composed music for some unforgettable tracks like Raayaru bandaru, Deepavu ninnade, Balegaara chennaya from Mysoora Mallige and also songs like Nammoora mandaara hoove from the movie Aalemane…songs of Santa Shishunaala Sharifa  and TS Nagabharana’s Naagamandala the list just goes on and on. Singers of his kind are rare and his demise has left a huge void in the music world.

Vishnu as he was lovingly called, was one of the most-loved actors the Kannada filmdom has seen. Setting the screen on fire with his power-packed performance as the chiguru-meese Ramachari in Puttanna Kanagal’s Nagarahaavu, he went on to achieve great heights and carved a niche for himself, in spite of always being in the shadows of the larger-than-life actor and icon of his times – Dr.Rajkumar. He has acted in movies like Hombisilu, Gandhada Gudi, Saahasa Simha (which also got him the title Saahasa Simha Vishnuvardhan), paired up with the lovely Suhaasini in the tragic-love-story Bandhana, played the part of a musician with aplomb in MalayaMarutha which had some excellent classical compositions, was the lovable happy-go-lucky-guy in Suprabhaata, romanced Jayaprada in the remake of Baghbaan – Ee Bandhana, was a part of the hugely successful Aapthamitra  and had just recently wrapped up work on its sequel Aaptharakshaka which was going to be his 200th film too. Vishnu with his trademark right-hand kada and left hand antics and immaculate acting has left behind a mark that will be very hard to replace.

The people of Karnataka as usual have been rowdy and disgusting in their behaviour in paying homage to these icons. Pelting stones, breaking glass and shops, rousing mobs, torching public vehicles, forcibly shutting down shutters – everything that would’ve made the dead people turn in their graves. Shame on us – that we cannot in the least give a respectful homage to the departed souls and cannot let their families rest in solitude and peace. I wonder when we will ever get to see such a day, when the so-called fans will realize that they are not helping anybody’s cause by indulging in such henious acts?

I just want to say – you have entertained us all till your last breath and you shall live forever in our memories. May your souls rest in peace!

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