indian cinema heritage foundation



Better known as Kala Tapasvi actor Rajesh nee Vidyasagar, born on 15th April, 1935 was an ardent fan of literature, who appeared in many films as lead in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Later, he had to switch over to character roles as age caught up with him. 

With over 150 films to his credit, Rajesh’s foray into films was like any fanboy of films, who grew up watching the stars of the time such as Thyagaraja Bhagavatar, Rajakumari and T R Mahalingam. His interest in theatre kindled since childhood, saw him join the Sudarshana Nataka Mandali without his parents’ knowledge to wing to his aspirations. 

Under the ruse of going for tuitions, Rajesh seriously took to theatre bagging his first as Sri Rama. The pamphlets that were distributed to promote the play ensured his parents came to know that he had joined a theatre troupe. 

Primarily a government office typist, Rajesh formed the Shakti Nataka Mandali to enable his dream of being a theatre actor-director staging many popular plays. His wrote and directed the play on unemployment Nirudyogi Baalu which turned into Badavana Baalu. His next and with playwright Basheer appreciating them saw him graduate to donning roles in Visha Sarpa, Nandadeepa, Chandrodaya and Kittur Rani Chennamma as well. His Thackeray was also well received.

From theatre performances to film roles was a natural progression with veteran director Hunsur Krishnamurthy introducing Vidyasagar in Veera Sankalpa (1964) which saw him entrain to Madras applying for leave from his job. This led to him getting another offer for Sri Ramanjeneya Yuddha (1963) wherein Dr Rajkumar was Sri Rama and he himself played Bharatha with Udayakumar as Anjaneya. 

This success saw B R Panthulu cast him in Gange Gowri (1967) with Dr Rajkumar as Shiva and Rajesh as Maha Vishnu. He, however, returned home to Bangalore, before Narayan Seth from Mumbai took him to C V Shivashanker, which marked a new phase in his rather modest acting life. Vidyasagar became Rajesh and the 1968 film Namma Ooru brought him laurels not only as a good actor but also a good singer, becoming the turning point.

Directed by C V Shivashankar, it was a runaway hit with the then Finance Minister Ramakrishna Hegde declaring a 100 per cent tax exemption. It was the film's producer B S Narayan, late Suryanarayan Rao and J N Shetty who rechristened Vidyasagar as Rajesh and after that, he was flooded with offers. The song Hoogadhiri soohdarare from Namma Ooru was a famous hit. 

Though a late bloomer compared to Udaykumar, Rajkumar and Kalyan Kumar, all contemporaries, Rajesh withstood the strong competition with his impeccable performances. In charged up roles similar to what counterpart Sivaji Ganesan was doing, Rajesh was well received. 

He went on to act with Dr Rajkumar again in Devara Makkalu (1970), Prathidwani (1971), Kranthiveera (1972). In Devara Gudi (1975), he was with Vishnuvardhan. Devara Duddu (1977), Badhu Bangaravaythu (1976), Beluvaladha Madilalli (1975), and Mugiyadha Kathe (1976), were all hits. Beluvaladha Madilalli, Kaliyuga (1984), Pitamaha (1985), Satyanarayana Pooja Phale, Karna and Bhimoos Bang Bang Kids saw him flourish as an actor.

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