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This article is about the Kannada film actor and director. For the film, see Upendra (film).
Upendra Kannada Actor Director.jpg
Upendra in 1996
Born Upendra Rao
(1968-09-18) 18 September 1968 (age 46)
Bangalore, Mysore State, India
Residence Banashankari, Bangalore
Other names Uppi[1]
Occupation Actor, film director, film producer, screenwriter, lyricist, playback singer
Years active 1989–present
Spouse(s) Priyanka Upendra
Children 2

Upendra (born 18 September 1968; popularly also called Uppi[1]) is an Indian actor, director, producer, screenwriter, lyricist and singer. He stars primarily in Kannada films and is well known in Sandalwood and Tollywood. He started his career under the director Kashinath as a writer and an assistant director. His first directorial venture was Tharle Nan Maga.

In the late 1990s he directed Om, which portrayed actual Bangalore gangsters, followed by A, which was his debut film as an actor. Upendra, his next film, starred Raveena Tandon, a Bollywood actress. After a decade of acting in Kannada, Telugu and Tamil films,[2] he returned to the role of director with the multilingual movie Super, which was well-received critically and commercially.[3]

Upendra is known for his work in films like A (1998), Upendra (1999), Preethse (2000), Raa (2001), Kutumba (2003), Raktha Kanneeru (2003), Gokarna (2003), Gowramma (2005), Auto Shankar (2005), Aishwarya (2006), Anatharu (2007), Budhivanta (2008), Super (2010), Katari Veera Surasundarangi (2012), Godfather (2012) and Kalpana (2012). Upendra has thus established himself as one of the most successful actors and directors of Kannada cinema.[4][5][6][7] He is currently one of the highest paid directors and actors in the Kannada Film Industry.[8]

Early life[edit]

Upendra Rao was born on September 18, 1968 at the St. Mary's Hospital in the Chamrajpet locality of Bangalore, to Manjunatha Rao and Anusuya. He was the second son to his parents, his older brother being Sudheendra Rao. Rao was born to a poor family whose father struggled to make ends meet for his family. As a baby, he suffered from an eye problem, the result of which could be seen in his ability of rolling his eyeballs, which were seen in sequences of many of his films. He obtained his Bachelor of Commerce degree from APS College of Commerce, Bangalore. During his time at the college, he participated in plays often forming troupes with his friends. His association with Kashinath, who happened to be a distant relative of his, began during his final year in college.[9]

Career as a director[edit]

It was Upendra's ambition to become a director, for which he first sought to assist director Kashinath. He started off as a director with a typical Kashinath style comedy called Tharle Nan Maga in 1992. The film introduced a famous comedian called Jaggesh. The movie went on to be a runaway hit and has since achieved a cult following.[10]

Upendra directed a horror suspense thriller next called Shhh! in 1993. The film featured his mentor Kashinath and a young producer and actor named Kumar Govind. The film was a major box office success and Upendra came out as an independent director. Shhh! is considered as one of the best horror / thriller movies in Kannada Cinema.[10]

His next film was a gangster film called Om which was released in 1995. The film starred Shivrajkumar and also had real gangsters in its cast, and had a message of peace. Om became a blockbuster,[10] and went on to be one of the highest grossing Kannada films of its time and made news at National Level. Upendra became an overnight star director.[10] With Om, Upendra also introduced an actress from Coorg, Prema. Om was also remade into several languages – the Hindi version was called Arjun Pandit and had Sunny Deol essaying Shivrajkumar's role.

Upendra then turned towards a project of directing an extended version of the 1981 film Antha and he called it Operation Antha. The film had Ambareesh reprising his role from the earlier 1981 version Antha, as Kanwar Lal. The film contained revolutionary ideology and a strong feeling against corruption, where the protagonist is obsessed by the corrupt world and finds a way to change the system through extremist way. The film was much ahead of its time and hence was not very successful.[10] However, it was controversial for its taunts on some real life political figures.[10]

In 1998 Upendra directed A, through which he made a successful transition to acting.[10] A was again a revolutionary film about exploring deeper meanings of love. The film had outrageous posters, even more outrageous dialogues, and a controversial storyline. The plot was of a director falling in love with his lead actress while filming, and then becoming dejected as she leaves him when she becomes successful. The film also dealt with dark truths of the film world, like the casting couch. Rumors were thick that it was Upendra's own story, and the actress in the film portrayed his protege Prema. This only added to the popularity of the film and it broke many box office records upon release and went on to become one of the highest grossing Kannada films of its time.[11] The film had a 175 days run in Karnataka[10] was also dubbed to Telugu, and repeated its success in Andhra Pradesh too, where it had a 100 days run.[12] The film won accolades from Bollywood personalities like Amitabh Bachchan and Anil Kapoor.[10] Upendra was now a big name in Kannada cinema and was also popular in Andhra Pradesh.[10][13]

Upendra's next movie was Swasthik with lead Raghavendra Rajkumar which was released in 1998. The film was not a big success, but was still a hit with the critics.[10][14] However, it is still remembered for its smart narration and innovative screenplay and is considered to be one of the best works of Upendra with respect to screenplay.[10]

In 1999, Upendra made a self-titled film, Upendra, a psychological thriller that explored the nuances of ego. Upendra acted in this film as the unnamed protagonist (or antagonist) Naanu (I or Myself). The film starred three heroines, Damini, Prema, and Bollywood actress Raveena Tandon. Naanu was an arrogant character, bordered on misogyny, and was very insulting to women, which led to a lot of criticism on the film.[10] However, the film broke many box office records and went on to be a much bigger hit than A, both in Karnataka as well as in Andhra Pradesh.[10] The film had a 200 days run in Karnataka[15] and its Telugu version had a 100 days run in Andhra Pradesh.[12] Upendra was now not only a remarkably successful director, but also a big star with a large fan base in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.[10][13][16] Since then, Upendra gave up direction and concentrated more on his acting career.

Upendra came back as a director after a hiatus of 10 years in 2010 with the movie Super. The movie was released in a record number of theatres all over Karnataka[17] and was also dubbed into Telugu and released in Andhra Pradesh. The Utopian film, set in a futuristic India, tells the story of a NRI who, through political manipulations, helps India become a superpower in 2030. Super was a blockbuster,[10] breaking many box office records upon release and completing 175 days of run, becoming one of the highest grossing Kannada films of 2010 and was also critically acclaimed.[18]

In 2011, Tamil actor Rajinikanth attended a private screening of Super in Bangalore. Rajinikanth watched the film along with Upendra and a couple of friends. "Upendra is a great actor and director. There is hardly anyone in Indian Cinema, who would think like him. Only he can think like that. I like watching Upendra's films and this was no exception. If I get an opportunity and an impressive script, I'd like to act in an Upendra film in the future," said Rajini.[19][20]

In January 2012, Upendra announced that he is working on the script for his next directorial titled Upendra 2 (stylized as Uppi2), a sequel to his 1999 film Upendra. Upendra 2 will be directed and produced by Upendra under his home banner, Upendra Productions. The first posters of Upendra 2 were released on the Internet on 16 September 2012.[21] The posters featured a huge rectangle, with no clear name inside it, but with a heap of mathematical formulae – be it arithmetic, algebra, geometry, analytical geometry, calculus and so on – and had a byline – "directed by Upendra".[22] Uppi2 was launched by Upendra on 18'th September 2013 at Kanteerava Studios in Bangalore, amongst thousands of fans gathered to witness the launch. Lathi Charge from the police to control the crowd of fans gathered at the venue was reported.[23] The Songs Recording for Uppi2 started on 30'th March 2014 at Gurukiran Studio in Bangalore.[24] Upendra is rumored to have approached bollywood actress Vidya Balan to play the female lead in Uppi2.[25] However, Upendra is yet to officially announce the star cast of the film and will start shooting by May 2014.[24]

Career as an actor[edit]

After acting in small roles in his mentor Kashinath's films such as Anathana Avanthara and Ajagajanthara, Upendra started his acting career with a bunch of walk on roles notably in his directorial films such as Tharle Nan Maga, Shhh! and Operation Antha.


In 1998 Upendra directed and starred in A, which was his fifth film as a director but his first as an actor. Upon release, the film had a 175 days run[15] and became a trend setting blockbuster in Karnataka,[10] with its Telugu dubbed version also becoming a Super Hit by running for 100 days in Andhra Pradesh.[12] Due to Upendra's newly found popularity in Telugu, ace Telugu director E. V. V. Satyanarayana cast him in the 1998 Telugu film Kanyadanam alongside Srikanth and Rachana, which also became a commercial success.[26] In 1999 Upendra again directed and starred in his self-titled film Upendra which starred bollywood actress Raveena Tandon. The film went on to become a bigger hit than A, both in Karnataka as well as in Andhra Pradesh.[10] The film had a 200 days run in Karnataka[15] and 100 days run in Andhra Pradesh.[12] In 2000, Upendra starred opposite Bollywood actress Sonali Bendre in the psychological thriller Preethse which was a remake of bollywood film Darr. Preethse became Upendra's third consecutive blockbuster[10] by completing 175 days of run.[27] With three back to back silver jubilee hits, Upendra had attained Super Star status in the Kannada Film Industry with popularity in Telugu as well.[10] In 2001 Upendra wrote and starred in a Telugu film titled Raa which became a box office hit in Andhra Pradesh.[28][29] Raa was a typical Upendra style film in which he plays a womanising playboy. Upendra starred opposite his future wife Priyanka Trivedi for the first time in this film.

In 2002, Upendra hit a rough patch, with his most expected films such as H2O, Super Star and Hollywood not meeting expectations and having average run at the box office[10] and films like Nagarahavu and Naanu Naane flopping at the box office.[30]

However, Upendra made a strong comeback in the next three years, i.e. from 2003 to 2005 which is considered his most successful period. During these three years, he starred in 5 back to back 100 days films, such as Kutumba, Raktha Kanneeru, Gokarna, Gowramma and Auto Shankar, all of which were Super hits at the box office.[10] The only films of Upendra which didn't do well during this period were Omkara (which had a 50 days run with huge opening) and News.[10]

During the span of 1998 to 2005, Upendra was considered as the most successful actor, much ahead of his contemporaries like Puneeth Rajkumar, Darshan, Sudeep and Shivrajkumar, having starred in eight 100 days hits in eight years, such as A, Upendra, Preethse, Kutumba, Raktha Kanneeru, Gokarna, Gowramma and Auto Shankar.[10][31]


Upendra went through a bad phase during 2006 to 2009, with most of his films during this period going totally unnoticed at the box office such as Uppi Dada M.B.B.S., Tandege Takka Maga, Parodi, Masti, Toss (Telugu), Lava Kusha, Sathyam (Tamil), Dubai Babu and Rajini.[10][32][33]

The only commercial hits he gave during this period were the candy floss romantic comedy Aishwarya, which ran for 75 days[34] (which was also the debut film of bollywood actress Deepika Padukone), and the moderately successful Anatharu which ran for 70 days.[10] Upendra also received praise and critical acclaim for his performance in Anatharu.

Budhivanta which was Upendra's only release in 2008, was considered as his big comeback through which he rose back to Super Stardom. The film was declared as a blockbuster[35] and completed 100 days of run[36] becoming the top box office grosser of the year.[37] Budhivanta was a typical old school Uppi style film in which Uppi played a womanizing con-man, (somewhat similar to his 2001 Telugu hit Raa) and his seven get-ups in the film were highly appreciated as were his witty dialogues.[10] Budhivanta's Telugu dubbed version was also a hit, completing 50 days of run in Andhra Pradesh.[12]


2010 marked Upendra's comeback to direction after 10 years. After several ups and downs in his acting career, Upendra finally came back as a director after 10 years in 2010 with the movie Super in which he starred opposite Tamil actress Nayantara and Tulip Joshi. The movie was released in a record number of theatres all over Karnataka[38] and was also dubbed into Telugu and released in Andhra Pradesh. Super was a blockbuster,[10] breaking many box office records upon release and completing 175 days of run, becoming one of the highest grossing Kannada films of 2010 and was also critically acclaimed.[18]

Upendra then starred in several films like Shrimathi (2011) opposite his wife Priyanka Trivedi and bollywood actress Celina Jaitly, and Aarakshaka (2012). In 2012, Upendra starred in several commercially successful films like 3D fantasy film Katari Veera Surasundarangi which was declared a Super hit[39] and became the second highest grossing film of the year,[40] followed by Godfather which did above average business[39] and the horror comedy film Kalpana which also did reasonably well at the box office.[39]

Upendra's much anticipated films like Topiwala (2013) and Brahma (2014) haven't been able to meet with expectations at the box office.[10][41][42]

Upcoming films[edit]

Upendra is working with Dandupalya director Sreenivasa Raju in an action film titled Basavanna, which evoked controversies regarding its title and first look poster.[43] After facing oppositions from religious communities, the makers of the film have reportedly decided to shoot the film without a title and the film is currently in post production.[44] Upendra is also starring in the remake of Telugu film Kick, titled Supero Ranga, which stars actress Kriti Kharbanda opposite Upendra.[45] After the completion of these films, Upendra will direct and star in his most ambitious project, Uppi2 which was launched on 18'th September 2013.[23] The Songs Recording for Uppi2 started on 30'th March 2014 at Gurukiran Studio in Bangalore.[24] Upendra is rumored to have approached bollywood actress Vidya Balan to play the female lead in Uppi2.[25] However, Upendra is yet to officially announce the star cast of the film and will start shooting by May 2014.[24]


Upendra has done the highest number of Brand Endorsements among Kannada Actors.[46] Upendra has been the brand ambassador of United Breweries, Lunars Footwear, Emani Navaratna Brand, Karnataka Milk Federation (Nandini), Udayavani News Daily, Royal Challengers Bangalore (replaced by Puneeth Rajkumar in IPL 3), Mavalli Tiffin Room (MTR), Bangalore Electricity Supply Company.[46] Upendra is also joining hands with Rajinikanth to endorse BBMP campaign.[47]

Upendra has been the Brand Ambassador of United Breweries Group since 1999. His tag line Yella OK. Cool drink yaake? has long been part of the ad campaign.[48] Commenting on his long standing association with the brand, Upendra added "UB Export was successful in bringing out the quirky side of me in one of my most popular punch lines ever, Yella ok. Cool drink Yaake? It's been almost 10 years since the ad broke out but the fad of Yaake? still seems to linger. Fans even now refer to it whenever I meet them on occasions."[48]

Personal life[edit]

Upendra was born in Koteshwara near Kundapura, Udupi district of Karnataka. On 14 December 2003, Uppi married former Miss Kolkata Priyanka Trivedi who met him first on the sets of the Telugu movie Raa and then on the sets of H2O. Upendra and his family reside in Banashankari III Stage in Bangalore.[49][50]


As director[edit]

Year Film Lead Actor(s) Awards Notes
1992 Tharle Nan Maga Jaggesh Appears as narrator, writer, lyricist, Debut film as director
1993 Shhh! Kumar Govind Cameo appearance, writer, lyricist
1995 Om Shivaraj Kumar Filmfare Award for Best Director
Karnataka State Film Award for Best Director
Voice-over, writer
1995 Operation Antha Ambareesh Cameo appearance, writer, lyricist
1998 A Himself Udaya Film Award for Best Male Actor Writer, lyricist
1999 Swasthik Raghavendra Rajkumar Writer, lyricist
1999 Upendra Himself Filmfare Award for Best Director – Kannada (1999)
Filmfare Award for Best Film (Kannada)
Writer, lyricist
2010 Super Himself Karnataka State Film Award for Best Film
Karnataka State Film Award for Best Director
Udaya Film Award for Best Screenplay
Suvarna Film Awards 2011 – Favorite Film Award
Suvarna Film Awards 2011 – Favorite Director Award.[51]
Writer, lyricist
2014 Uppi2 Himself Pre-production

As actor[edit]

Year Film Role Language Notes
1989 Anathana Avanthara Kannada Cameo appearance (Lord Kamadeva in a song)
1991 Ajagajanthara Kannada Cameo appearance
1993 Shhh! Kannada Cameo appearance
1995 Operation Antha Kannada Cameo Appearance
1998 A Surya Kannada
1998 Kanyadanam Telugu Debut movie in Telugu, a box office success.[52]
1999 Upendra Naanu Kannada Highest Grossing film of 1999[53]
The film starred Bollywood actress Raveena Tandon.
2000 Preethse Chandru Kannada Highest Grossing film of 2000[54]
The film starred the Bollywood actress Sonali Bendre. Remake of Darr.
2000 Oke Maata Sooryam Telugu
2001 Raa Sridhar Telugu
2002 H2O Udayashankar Kannada, Tamil
2002 Neethone Vuntanu Ravi Telugu
2002 Super Star Praveen,
2002 Nagarahavu Ajay Kannada Remake of Baazigar
2002 Naanu Naane Raja Kannada Remake of Hindi film Raja Hindustani
2002 Hollywood Upendra,
Robot US47
2003 Kutumba Vijay Kannada Remake of Telugu film Gang Leader
2003 Rakta Kanneeru Mohan Kannada Remake of Tamil film Ratha Kanneer
2003 Gokarna Sidda Kannada Remake of Annamalai
2004 Omkara Sathya Kannada
2005 Gowramma Venkat Swamy Kannada Remake of Nuvvu Naaku Nachav
2005 News Guru Kannada
2005 Auto Shankar Shankar Kannada
2006 Uppi Dada M.B.B.S. Rao Bahaddur Upendra Kannada Remake of Munna Bhai M.B.B.S
2006 Thandege Thakka Maga Kannada Remake of Thevar Magan
2006 Aishwarya Abhishek Hegde Kannada Remake of Manmadhudu
Debut film of the Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone
2007 Parodi Vijay Kannada Remake of Krantiveer
2007 Masti Siddappaji Kannada
2007 Toss Neelakanta Telugu
2007 Anatharu Rudra Kannada Remake of Pithamagan
2007 Lava Kusha Chakri Kannada
2008 Sathyam Manickvel Tamil
2008 Budhivanta Joseph Fernandez,
Zakir Hussain,
Vijay Mithal,
Samarasimha Reddy,
Sri Sri Sri Bhagavan Ranjaneesh Swamy,
Shyam Prasad
Kannada Highest Grossing film of 2008,[55] released as Buddhimanthudu in Telugu. Remake of Naan Avan Illai.
2008 Mast Maja Maadi Himself Kannada Special Appearance
2009 Dubai Babu Babu Kannada Remake of Dubai Seenu
2009 Rajani Rajani Kannada Remake of Krishna
2010 Super Subhash Chandra Gandhi Kannada
2011 Shrimathi Raj Kumar Kannada Remake of Aitraaz
2012 Aarakshaka Arun,
2012 Katari Veera Surasundarangi Upendra,
Kannada One of the Highest grossing Kannada films of 2012,[56]
First full length 3D film in Kannada cinema.
SIIMA Award for Best Actor (Critics)
2012 Godfather Shiva,
Kannada Remake of Varalaru[57]
Music for the film was composed by A. R. Rahman[58]
Nominated Bangalore Times Film Award for Best Actor in a Negative Role
2012 Kalpana Raghava Kannada Remake of Kanchana
Udaya Award for Best Actor
2013 Topiwala Basak Kannada Nominated, SIIMA Award for Best Actor
2014 Brahma Brahma Kannada / Telugu
2014 Super Ranga Sriranga Kannada Remake of Kick
TBA Basavanna/OM2 Kannada Post-production
TBA Uppi2 Kannada Pre-production[24]

As writer[edit]

Year Film Notes
2001 Raa Screenplay
2002 H2O Story, Screenplay, Dialogue, Lyrics
2002 Super Star Story, Screenplay, Dialogue, Lyrics
2002 Hollywood Story, Lyrics
2003 Rakta Kanneeru Screenplay, Dialogue, Lyrics
2008 Budhivanta Screenplay, Dialogue, Lyrics
2013 Topiwala Story, Screenplay, Lyrics
2014 Uppi 2 Story, Screenplay, Lyrics, Dialogue

As singer[edit]

Year Film Song
1999 Upendra Uppiganta Ruchi Bere Illa
2002 H2O Bida Byada
Dil Ilde Love
2002 Nagarahavu Yaaking Aadthiye
2003 Rakta Kanneeru Baa Baaro Rasika
2004 Omkara Othla Othla
2006 Uppi Dada M.B.B.S. Makkar Maado Maliniye
2006 Aishwarya Yella OK Madhuve Yaake
2007 Parodi Rowdy Mele
2008 Budhivanta Chitranna
2010 Super Sikkapatte Ishtapatte
2011 Jogayya Thagalakonde
2011 Jarasandha Pade Pade Phone-inalli
2012 Katari Veera Surasundarangi Muthinantha Muthondhu
2013 Brindavana Oye Kalla
2014 Super Ranga Ondsali Avala
TBA Krishna Leela Phoneammangu Simmappangu

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Film Result
1999 Udaya Film Awards Best Male Actor[59] A Won
1999 Udaya Film Awards Best Director[59] A Nominated
1999 Filmfare Awards South Filmfare Award for Best Director – Kannada[60] A Nominated
2000 Filmfare Awards South Filmfare Award for Best Director – Kannada[61] Upendra Won
2000 Filmfare Awards South Filmfare Award for Best Film – Kannada[61] Upendra Won
2003 Udaya Film Awards Best Male Actor[59] Nagarahavu Won
2004 Hello Gandhinagara Awards 2004 Best Actor[62] Raktha Kanneeru Won
2004 Hello Gandhinagara Awards 2004 Best Dialogue[62] Raktha Kanneeru Won
2004 Filmfare Awards South Filmfare Award for Best Actor – Kannada[63] Raktha Kanneeru Nominated
2008 Suvarna Film Awards Special Award For Performance[64] Anatharu Won
2008 Filmfare Awards South Filmfare Award for Best Actor – Kannada[65] Anatharu Nominated
2008 Udaya Film Awards Best Male Actor[66] Anatharu Nominated
2009 Filmfare Awards South Filmfare Award for Best Actor – Kannada[67] Budhivanta Nominated
2011 Udaya Film Awards Best Screenplay[66] Super Won
2011 Udaya Film Awards Best Director[66] Super Nominated
2011 Udaya Film Awards Best Male Actor[66] Super Nominated
2011 Suvarna Film Awards Favorite Director Award[68] Super Won
2011 Suvarna Film Awards Favorite Film[68] Super Won
2011 Filmfare Awards South Filmfare Award for Best Director – Kannada[69] Super Nominated
2011 Filmfare Awards South Filmfare Award for Best Actor – Kannada[69] Super Nominated
2011 Filmfare Awards South Filmfare Award for Best Male Playback Singer – Kannada[69] Sikka PatteSuper Nominated
2012 Karnataka State Film Awards Karnataka State Film Award for Best Director[70] Super Won
2012 Karnataka State Film Awards Karnataka State Film Award for Best Film[70] Super Won
2012 South Indian International Movie Awards Special Appreciation Award[71] Shrimathi Won
2013 Udaya Film Awards Best Male Actor[72] Kalpana Won
2013 Suvarna Film Awards Best Male Actor Kalpana Nominated
2013 South Indian International Movie Awards Best Actor[73] Katariveera Surasundarangi Won
2013 Bangalore Times Film Awards Best Male Actor in a Negative Role Godfather Nominated


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External links[edit]