Puneeth Rajkumar, 46, one of the marquee names of Kannada film industry and the youngest of the five children of matinee idol Dr. Rajkumar passed away on October 29 after suffering cardiac arrest in the morning. Revenue Minister R. Ashok announced the demise of the actor at Vikram Hospital, Bengaluru. Puneeth Rajkumar is survived by his wife Ashwini Revanth and two daughters Drithi and Vanditha.
Dr. Ranganath Naik of Vikram Hospital said, “Puneeth Rajkumar complained of chest pain in the morning and was rushed to the private clinic of his family physician where an ECG test was done. It showed a heart attack and he was immediately rushed to Vikram Hospital. When he was brought to the hospital, there was no cardiac activity. We put him on a ventilator and tried to revive him, but all efforts failed.”
Mr. Ashok said the last rites of the actor will be performed on October 30, and the details will be finalised after discussions with the family. He appealed to the actor’s fans not to become emotional and maintain peace. His mortal remains will be kept for public viewing at Kanteerava Stadium.
Puneeth Rajkumar, christened ‘Power Star’ by the film industry and lovingly called ‘Appu’, was associated with the silver screen since he was a toddler. He made his screen debut as a six-month-old baby in Premada Kanike (1976) starring Dr. Rajkumar. He went on to act as a child actor in 13 films, most of them with his father. He won the national award for best child actor for the film Bettada Hoovu in 1985, and two best child actor State film awards for Chalisuva Modagalu in 1982 and Eradu Nakshtragalu in 1983. He also sang several popular songs as a child artist.
He took a break and debuted as a lead actor in Kannada films in 2002 with the film Appu, directed by Puri Jagannadh. Lead actors Rakshitha and Ramya also made their debut in this film. Puneeth played the role of a college student, and the film went on to become a massive hit.
He has been the lead actor in 29 films since then, with his last release being Yuvarathnaa, which hit the screens in April earlier this year. Two of his films James and Dvitva were under production.
He won two State awards for best actor for Milana (2007-08) and Jackie (2010-11). He won a total of five Filmfare awards – one as a child artist and four as a lead actor. He delivered hits in collaboration with directors ‘Duniya’ Suri, Yograj Bhat, Jacob Varghese and Milana Prakash. Appu, Arasu, Milana, Jackie, Prithvi, Paramaatma, Raajakumaara were some of his biggest hits.
Puneeth was considered ‘ahead of his time’ for the films he produced under his home banner Puneeth Raj Kumar Films, which he started in 2019. PRK Audio is considered to be a new-age digital native audio label in Kannada. Though he starred in commercial potboilers, he produced ‘new wave’ films – Kavaludaari, Mayabazar 2016, Law, French Biriyani. He had two films under production – Family Pack and One Cut Two Cut An Flower is Came.
He was the first producer to release Kannada films – Law and French Biriyani – directly on OTT platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic. He was also one of the first marquee names to take to the small screen by hosting ‘Kannadada Kotyadhipathi’, a quiz show modelled on ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’, and a family game show ‘Family Power’.
Appeal by brother
Puneeth’s brother Raghavendra Rajkumar appealed to people not to cause any harm. “We need to send him back with love. Film actors don’t die. Their art speaks for them,” he said adding, “All fans will be able to see him. We won’t do anything in a hurry.”