Vishnuvardhan (actor)

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Dr. Vishnuvardhan.jpg
Sampath Kumar

(1950-09-18)18 September 1950
Mysore, Mysore State, India (now Karnataka, India)
Died30 December 2009(2009-12-30) (aged 59)[1]
Mysore, Karnataka, India
OccupationActor and singer
Years active1972–2009
(m. 1975)
RelativesAniruddha Jatkar (son-in-law)

Sampath Kumar (18 September 1950 – 30 December 2009), known by his stage name Vishnuvardhan, was an Indian film actor predominantly in Kannada cinema.[2] He appeared in more than 220 films all together in Kannada, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu.[3] He was called The Phoenix of Indian Cinema.[4][5][6] He made his debut in the 1972 film, Vamsha Vriksha, in a supporting role. The same year he played the lead role in Puttanna Kanagal's Naagarahaavu, and was recognized as 'The Angry Young Man of Kannada Cinema'.[7] He has played a variety of roles in different genres.[8][9][10][11]The last film of vishnuvardan is Aptarakshaka.

In 2008, a poll conducted by CNN-IBN listed Vishnuvardhan as the most popular star in the Kannada Film Industry.[12] A road stretching 14.5 km from Banashankari Temple to Kengeri in Bangalore was named after him. It is the longest road in Asia to be named after a celebrity.[13][14] He was a martial artist, in an interview with The Hindu, he had said that it was the era of Bruce Lee and it was only Kamal Haasan and himself who had learnt martial arts in his generation.[15] He was also the story writer of the 1997 movie Ganesha I Love You directed by Phani Ramachandra.

Early life[edit]

Vishnuvardhan was born in Mysore to H. L. Narayana Rao and Kamakshamma.[16] His ancestors are from Hallegere, Mandya district of Karnataka. His father was an artist, music composer and a screenwriter who was known for his collection of musical instruments. He had six siblings. His sister Rama was a Kathak dancer at the Mysore Palace, and brother Ravi was a child actor who appeared in the 1955 Tamil language and Kannada bilingual film Modala Thedi.[17] Vishnuvardhan was educated first in Mysore's Gopalswamy School and then at Bangalore's Kannada Model High School. He attended high school and obtained a degree from National College, Basavanagudi, Bangalore.[18][19]

Vishnuvardhan married actress Bharathi on 17 February 1975 in Bangalore. They have adopted two children, Keerthi and Chandana.[20]


Early career and debut (1972 - 1980)[edit]

Vishnuvardhan started his career with the National Award-winning movie Vamshavruksha (1972) directed by Girish Karnad based on the novel written by S. L. Bhyrappa. His first lead role was in Naagarahaavu, directed by Puttanna Kanagal and based on a novel by T. R. Subba Rao. It was the first in Kannada film history to complete 100 days in three main theatres of Bangalore. In his 37-year career, he played a variety of roles in more than 200 films.[21] Then he appeared along with Rajkumar in Gandhada Gudi. Released in 1973, it was the highest-grossing Kannada movie of the year. In 1974 he appeared in Bhootayyana Maga Ayyu. In 1977 he appeared in many movies but three of it were with Rajinikanth. Those movies where Sahodarara Savaal, Kiladi Kittu and Galate Samsara. They went on to appear in more movies together. In 1978 he appeared in Hombisilu

Later career and success (1981 - 1999)[edit]

In 1982 his movie Sahasa Simha became another Blockbuster and he also get the title Sahasa Simha. In 1984 he debuted in the Bollywood movie Ek Naya Iittihas which was critically acclaimed. And in the same year he appeared in Bandhana. It became a turning point in his career. In 1985 he appeared again with Rajinikanth in the Tamil film Sri Raghavendrar. The same year he appeared in Jeevana Chakra which was successful. Next year he appeared in multi-starrer cult film Viduthalai (1986 film) co-starring with Sivaji Ganesan, Rajinikanth, Madhavi, Vijayakumar, R. N. Sudarshan, K. Balaji and Y. G. Mahendran. It was a remake of Bollywood Hindi language film Qurbani (film) released in 1980. Starring Feroz Khan, Vinod Khanna, Amjad Khan, Zeenat Aman, Shakti Kapoor and Aruna Irani. However Qurbani (film) became the highest grosser of the year while Viduthalai (1986 film) was average at the box office. In 1989 his two movies Hrudaya Geethe and Deva were successful. In 1990 his movie Muthina Haara costar with Suhasini Maniratnam (who earlier appeared with Vishnuvardhan in Bandhana) become Vishnuvardhan's one of the best movie. Next year in 1991 he appeared in Lion Jagapathi Rao by which he received an award. In 1992 his Malayalam movie Kauravar with Mammootty was critically acclaimed. In 1993 he appeared in Hindi Kannada bilingual movie Vishnu Vijaya (In Hindi Ashant). Co-star with Akshay Kumar. It was a failure in Hindi but a success in Kannada. In 1994 his movie Halunda Tavaru was a blockbuster then same year he appeared in the hit film Zaalim again with Akshay Kumar throughout the 1990s he appeared in successful movies such as Habba and Jeevanadhi.

Vishnuvardhan with Prema in 1997 Kannada film Ellaranthalla Nanna Ganda

Career in 2000s (2000 - 2010)[edit]

In 2000 his movie Yajamana was a huge box office success and eventually became the highest grossing Kannada movie of the year. And in same year his another movies such as Soorappa, Simhadriya Simha and Surya Vamsha and also Jamindaru became Blockbusters. In 2001 his movie Diggajaru with Ambareesh become a Blockbuster. In 2003 - 2004 his movies Varsha, Sahukara, Kadamba and Apthamithra became blockbusters. His two movies in 2007 Ee Bandhana and Maathaad Maathaadu Mallige were critically acclaimed. And his another Neenello Naanalle became a box office and his movie Bellary Naga was an average hit. Aptharakshaka (2010) was his last movie to be released which was a Blockbuster.

Television career[edit]

He appeared on television for the first time in the 1980s. Shankar Nag directed Malgudi Days and introduced Vishnuvardhan as the main character Venkat Rao, in an episode called "Rupees Forty-five a Month". Here, his co-star was Gayatri Nag.[22][23][24]


Vishnuvardhan started an organisation called Sneha Loka to promote harmony and to help during calamities like floods. He conducted a 'padayatra' to collect funds for the flood-affected people in the northern part of the state. Vishnuvardhan and his wife Bharathi had adopted the Melukote town in Mandya district where he had dug borewells in the water-starved temple town. Many of his other charitable donations were revealed only when the beneficiaries came forward and spoke about it.[25] In January 2005, Vishnuvardhan, cricketer Syed Kirmani and Shivram participated in a Cancer Awareness Walkathon organised by Bangalore Institute of Oncology (BIO) to commemorate its 15 years of public service in Bangalore.[26]

Frequent collaboration[edit]

S. P. Balasubramanyam

S. P. Balasubrahmanyam's voice suited Vishnuvardhan, and people felt it was a perfect combination.[27] He started singing for Vishnuvardhan in the 1972 film Naagarahaavu. Balasubrahmanyam as music director, composed all the songs for Vishnuvardhan's Sowbhagyalakshmi. Vishnuvardhan never missed any of the birthdays of S. P. Balasubrahmanyam. In every film of the actor, he had to sing couple of songs and Vishnu would insist. Balasubrahmanyam has sung all the five songs in his last Kannada film Aptharakshaka and was awarded the Best Playback Singer Filmfare Award for the song Gharane Ghara Gharane. He dedicated his award to Vishnuvardhan. After Vishnuvardhan's death, Balasubrahmanyam paid tribute to him in musical nights and one such show happened in Bengaluru and Mysuru.

H. R. Bhargava

Vishnuvardhan's pairing with director H.R. Bhargava is considered one of the best pairings of Kannada film industry. His first film with H.R. Bhargava was Asaadhya Aliya which was a successful one. He has a total of 23 films with H.R. Bhargava. The rate of success of this combination was very high. To name a few are Guru Sishyaru, Jeevana Chakra, Karunamayi, Jana Naayaka, Hrudaya Geethe, Karna, Mathe Haditu Kogile, Onde Guri, and Krishna Nee Begane Baaro.


Vishnuvardan's pair with actress Suhasini Maniratnam was one of the most lovable pairs in Karnataka.

Ramesh Bhat

Bhat has acted in more than 75 films with Vishnuvardhan.

As singer[edit]

He started singing in movies occasionally and later went on to sing devotional songs for albums. The first song he sang was in the movie Nagarahole and he has recorded some duet songs with the notable legendary singers S. Janaki, Bangalore Latha, Vani Jairam and P. Susheela. The first devotional album sung by him was on Lord Ayappa and the title of the album was Jyothiroopa Ayappa. His other albums were "Thayi Bhanashankari" (on goddess Banashankari) and Vishwapremi Ayappa. He also sang devotional songs on Dharmastala's Lord Manjunathaswamy, Malemadeshwara and Ranachandi Chamundi.[28][29][30][31]

Some of his renderings are:

Song Movie Co-singer Lyrics Music
"Ee Notake Mai Maatake" Nagarahole Bharathi Vishnuvardhan Chi. Udaya Shankar
"Madilalli Maguvaagi Naanu" Kiladi Kittu P Susheela R N Jayagopal
"Shashiya Kandu Moda Helithu" Siritanakke Savaal Kunigal Nagabhushan
"Aasegala Thottilidu" Hanthakana Sanchu Vani Jayaram, Kasthuri Shankar R N Jayagopal
"Naguvude Swarga" Naga Kala Bhairava S Janaki Chi. Udaya Shankar
"Hegiddaroo Neene Chenna" Sahasa Simha Renuka Chi. Udaya Shankar
"Thutthu Anna Thinnoke" Jimmy Gallu Chi. Udaya Shankar
"Hennu Kannina Sanchalli" Kallu Veene Nudiyithu Vani Jayaram R N Jayagopal
"Olavina Jodi" Kallu Veene Nudiyithu Vijaya Narasimha
"Eke Eke Karanava Heluveya" Matthe Vasantha Chi. Udaya Shankar
"Beda Annoru Unte" Sididedda Sahodara S Janaki Chi. Udaya Shankar
"Vayyari Nee Heege" Gandugali Rama Vani Jayaram Chi. Udaya Shankar
"Savi Mathanu Aadeya" Chinnadantha Maga S Janaki Chi. Udaya Shankar
"Kannalli Nee Bandu" Simha Gharjane S Janaki
"Cheluvina Chenniga" Rudranaga Bangalore Latha R N Jayagopal
"Mutthe Maniye" Khaidi S Janaki Chi. Udaya Shankar
"Anuraga Geetheyalli" Benki Birugali solo Chi. Udaya Shankar
"Nammoora Beedhiyalli" Doddarange Gowda
"Kandadda Kandaange" Huli Hejje Doddarange Gowda
"Kande Nanna Olavina Hudugiya" Maha Purusha R N Jayagopal
"Anuragaveno Aanandaveno" Nammoora Raja Chithra Shyamasundar Kulkarni
"Kila Kila Nagutha Baaro" Shivashankar Manjula Gururaj, Chandrika Gururaj Chi. Udaya Shankar Rajan-Nagendra
"Megha Maleyali" Hosa Love Story Rajkishore
"Kannadave Nammamma" Mojugara Sogasugara Hamsalekha Hamsalekha
"Onde Ondu Question" Surya Vamsha Baby Rithisha Doddarange Gowda V. Manohar
"Abhimanigale Nanna Prana" Vishnu Sena K. Kalyan Deva

Later years and death[edit]

On 30 December 2009, Vishnuvardhan died of a massive cardiac arrest at King's Court Hotel in Mysore. He was survived by his wife, Bharathi Vishnuvardhan, and two daughters, Keerthi and Chandana. He was cremated with full state honours at Abhiman studio in Bangalore.[32][33]


Books about Vishnuvardhan include:

Book Author(s)
Vishnu – Noorondu Nenapu Sadashiva Shenoy
Sahasa Simhayana S. Jagannath Rao Bahule
Hrudayavantha Vishnu: Avadootharu B. Vinod Kumar
Kala Jnani Dr. Vishnuvardhan H. Krishnappa
Sneha Sampatthu H. Narasimha Murthy
Kannadada Sampatthu Manjunath Alde
Dr. Vishnuvardhana – Nanna Haadu Nannadu Nandakumar
Mareyada Maanikya – Yajamanru Dr. Vishnuvardhan Janardhan Rao Salanke
Karna maadida sampathu – Dr.Vishnuvardana Hemanth G Nag
Simha Gharjane Janardhan Rao Salanke
Karunamayee Dr. Vishnuvardhan Janardhan Rao Salanke
Anna – Nammanna Babu Dinakar
Naagarahaavu: Nenapu – Meluku Babu Dinakar
Naagarahaavu Janardhan Rao Salanke
Bhava Shilpi Dr. Vishnuvardhan B. Vinod Kumar
Nenapina Mutthina Haara S. V. Rajendra Singh Babu

Legacy, awards and honors[edit]

Karnataka State Film Awards[edit]

Year Award Film
1972-73 Best Actor Naagarahaavu
1977-78 Best Actor Hombisilu
1984-85 Best Actor Bandhana
1990-91 Best Actor Lion Jagapathi Rao
1997-98 Best Actor Laali
1998-99 Best Actor Veerappa Nayaka
2007-08 Dr. Rajkumar Lifetime Achievement Award For his Lifetime Contribution
2009-10 Best Actor Aaptha Rakshaka
Vishnuvardhan on 2013 Indian stamp
Vishnuvardhan statue in Bangalore
  • As an acknowledgment to his service to Indian cinema, the state government named its annual lifetime achievement award to long-serving film personalities after Vishnuvardhan, renaming it as the Karnataka State Dr. Vishnuvardhan Award.[34]
  • He has appeared on postage stamps issued by the Government of India posthumously.[35][36]
  • Vishnuvardhan was given the Filmfare South Lifetime achievement award in 2002 for his contribution to the Kannada film industry.
  • The State Government has named roads and parks in the capital city Bangalore after him.[37] A park in Jayanagar, Bengaluru has also been named as Dr. Vishnuvardhan Park.[38]
  • The government of Karnataka decided to build a film city in the name of Dr. Vishnuvardhan. It will be similar to the model of Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad.[39]
  • The Karnataka Assembly showed respect to the star by praying for a minute for his soul to rest in peace. After that, the election of the Speaker was held under chaotic circumstances as the Opposition parties wanted the elections to be postponed due to this shocking and unexpected incident.[40][41]
  • There are statues erected in his honour, especially in Bangalore. A 7-foot-high (2.1 m) statue in Gowri Palya on 1 March 2012, Laggere on 4 March 2012, Kengeri on 9 October 2011, KP Agrahara in Vijayanagar on 11 March 2012 and in other places of Bengaluru and Karnataka were unveiled.[42][43]
  • Vishnuvardhan was cremated at the Abhimaan Studios, in the outskirts of Bangalore on 30 December 2009 with full state honors. Almost all the leading politicians and actors were present there.[44][45]
  • A 14.3 km-long stretch of road between the Banashankari Temple and Kengeri in Bangalore has been named after the superstar. It is the longest road in Asia to be named after a celebrity.[13][14]
  • Vishnuvardhan's fans, for whom he is a demi-god, have built a temple for him naming it Dr. Vishnuvardhan Mandir.[46]



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  42. ^ Rajendra (3 March 2012). "ಲಾಠಿ ಚಾರ್ಚ್ ನಡುವೆ ಡಾ.ವಿಷ್ಣು ಪುತ್ಥಳಿ ಅನಾವರಣ- 03 dr vishnuvardhan statue gowri palya". Oneindia Entertainment. Retrieved 28 May 2013.
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