Alone in the hotel, drinking Kingfisher and watching old Karanataka films. In 1981’s Keralida Simha, an honest cop has to break up a party of riotous and drugged out delinquents. And it’s something akin to poetry.
I don’t know much about Kannada cinema — it’s called Sandalwood — but the cop with the sweet mustache and stern slap is Dr Rajkumar. He’s a legend. He’s George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Michael Jackson, rolled up with James Bond and Jesus in a burrito of southern India awesomeness. When he died in ’06, shop windows were smashed, cars were torched, and all of Bangalore was locked down.
“Put these in your car window,” managers urged to employees, as they handed out stacks of photos of Rajkumar. “If anyone stops your car, point to it. And go home, NOW!”
My brother and his wife fled the state.
“It isn’t as if it was a surprise that he died,” my sister-in-law gasped years later. “He was 78 years old!”
But still, there were riots in Bangalore for days.
My coworkers from Bombay, or Chennai, or New Delhi, have never heard of the man. They didn’t recognize his photo. But here, six years after his death, he’s still everywhere. Poster printer Ramachandraiah still keeps a shrine to Dr Rajkumar in his shop, and a monthly Dr Rajkumar calendar above his desk. Earlier this week, the Bangalore paper ran a front-page article complaining that there still wasn’t a Dr Rajkumar replacement.
All told, though, that is a truly awesome ‘stache.