indian cinema heritage foundation

M V Rajamma

  • Born: 10/02/1921 (Agandanahalli, Kingdom of Mysore)
  • Died: 24/04/1999 (Chenna, Tamil Nadu)
  • Primary Cinema: Kannada
  • Spouse: M C Veer
  • Children: B R Vijayalakshmi, B R Ravishankar

Actress, producer and playback singer all rolled into one, MV Rajamma had many talents. Like the other yesteryear actress Pandari Bai, her long career in cinema meant that she played both a love interest and mother to heroes like Dr. Rajkumar, Sivaji Ganesan, MGR and NTR. She remained at the very peak of the industry while working in Kannada, Tamil and Telugu language films. From the 1930s to the 1970s, she worked in nearly 60 Kannada films, 80 Tamil films, 20 Telugu movies, and one Hindi film. 

MV Rajamma was born on 10 March 1921 in the Kingdom of Mysore. She studied at Bangalore’s Arya Balika School till eighth grade, after which she took a decisive turn towards theatre, joining the Chandrakala Theatre Group. Though the 30s were a time when it was unusual for women to be seen either on stage or on screen, with men playing female roles, Rajamma broke this tradition by donning roles in plays like Samsara Nauke, Gautama Buddha and Subhadra. Thereafter, she moved to Chennai to try her luck in the world of cinema.

She made her debut in 1936 with Samsara Nauke in Kannada and the 1940 classic Uthama Puthiran in Tamil. Cast as the lead opposite director-producer BR Panthulu in Samsara Nauke, Rajamma started a long collaboration with him that lasted nearly 20 years. Her foray into the Tamil film industry with Uthama Puthiran ensured that she became one of the most sought after actresses across all South Indian film industries. However, following her marriage, she started playing maternal roles opposite actors she had been paired with as a lead previously. 

Her versatility and screen presence meant that she enjoyed a long stint on the screen. M V Rajamma also produced the movie Radha Ramana in 1943 under the banner of Vijaya Films, establishing herself as one of the first women producers across the country. Her second home production was Makkala Rajya in 1960. Some of the most popular Kannada movies featuring Rajamma as the lead actress include Bhakta Prahlada (1942), Rathnagiri Rahasya(1957), School Master (1958) and Abba Aa Hudugi(1959). 

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