The day Vishnuvardhan nearly shot Dr Raj Kumar

SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: The year was 1973. M.P.Shankar, a fine actor and a Mysorean, had decided to make a film with a storyline that revolved around a range forest officer posted in the wondrous jungles of Kakanakote, just 80 kilometres from Mysore.

The actor who played the range forest officer was none other than Raj Kumar and the film was Gandhada Gudi. A film that went onto become an all-time big hit with its gripping narration, thrilling locations and excellent background score.

It was also the film that could have nearly, yes nearly, injured Raj Kumar grievously on location.

Here’s how it happened, according to eye-witnesses.

Shooting for Gandhada Gudi had gone on for months in the Kakanakote jungles. Only the climax had to be canned. The last scene involved a dramatic and emotional exchange of words between the hero, Raj Kumar and the villain.

The villain of the piece was none other than Vishnuvardhan, a wisp of a boy who was just then gaining a toehold in Kannada cinema.

The climax was slated to be shot atop a hillock inside the jungles known as Masaale Betta, with the hero’s mother, played by Advaani Lakshmidevi, standing on a petrol-filled drum with a noose slung around her neck.

In the scene, the protagonist Vishnuvardhan threateningly points a double barrel gun at Raj Kumar screaming that he will shoot him and his mother dead.

The devious and wily Venkatappa Naika, played by the legendary Balakrishna, had orchestrated the whole sequence, completely disguising the fact that Raj Kumar and Vishuvardhan were actually brothers, born of the very same Advaani Lakshmidevi!

However…

However, on the fateful day, Prabhakar, the serving range forest officer of Kakanakote, invited the filmi forest officer Raj Kumar, producer M.P. Shankar and director Vijay for lunch.

Vishnuvardhan, the rookie that he was, was not given the invitation.

Prabhakar was an extremely powerful officer who held sway over the entire Kakanakote region in those days and had been of tremendous support and help to the unit ever since it had started shooting in the area.

As the men were lunching on the sumptuous spread, something happened that would have had disastrous consequences on the very existence of the film and particularly Raj Kumar.

This, say eye-witnesses, is what happened.

The team’s driver came along and announced that they were ready for the shot up on Masaale Betta.

“Hey, take that gun there and go to the spot. We’ll be there in a few minutes,’ ordered M.P. Shankar, pointing in the direction of two guns that lay in a corner.

The driver picked up the gun and left for the location.

Lunch over, M.P Shankar and the others too left, thanking Prabhakar for his hospitality.

Meanwhile, up on Masaale Betta inside the jungles, the shot had been readied.

Vishnuvardhan stood in his jungle boots at the appointed place, gun in hand. Advaani Lakshmidevi clambered onto the petrol drum, the noose around her neck in place.

Raj Kumar hurriedly donned grease paint. He gave himself a once-over in the mirror that the make-up assistant held and it was time for action!

But…

But, back at the place where lunch had been served, forest officer Prabhakar was getting terribly jittery. His double barrel gun was missing. He also remembered that it was loaded.

Suddenly, he realised that the gun had fallen into the hands of the film crew.

“Oh, my god, the driver has taken the wrong gun from here,” he shouted in panic as he began to rush frantically to the scene of the shooting.

And just as Vishnuvardhan was about to mouth his fiery dialogue, finger firmly on the trigger of the double barrel that he held, Prabhakar came onto the scene, his hands flailing like a mad man’s.

Nillisi. Nillisi. Stop the shooting. Put that gun down. It’s a real one. And it’s loaded,” he shouted.

A hush fell over the entire hillock as the film unit began to slowly come to grips with the consequences if Vishnuvardhan had indeed pressed the trigger, pointing the gun in the direction of Raj Kumar.

M.P Shankar’s huge frame was trembling.

The director Vijay was quivering.

And Advaani Lakshmidevi stood like a statue.

Raj Kumar composed himself and started walking towards a cane chair under a tree. He flopped down on the chair and wiped his brow with a handkerchief….

However, to their credit, neither the thespian nor the tyke allowed this incident to affect their relationship.

They eventually went on to shoot the climax, this time with make-believe guns, and Gandhada Gudi went on to become the hit it did.

(Reconstructed from interviews with eye-witnesses and some of the key players involved)

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42 Responses to “The day Vishnuvardhan nearly shot Dr Raj Kumar”

  1. PDCS Says:

    Umm. here is finally an authentic version of the Rajkumar-Vishnuvardhan Gandhadagudi story. how many versions have we heard over the years!

  2. Bhargavi Says:

    This was really an interesting piece of information. It only tempts to watch the movie again.

  3. Aa.Cha.Ashoka kumara Says:

    The Website is very fine congrats. Why cannot you do it in kannada also

    yours
    aacha

  4. Harsha Says:

    Thanks for the nice story.

    It has been shown in almost all parts of media that the whole Bangalore has gone berserk (it is only a few miscreants who are responsible), where as, in the true sense the city is under deep mourning.

    It is exactly the same way vishnu was victimised (by way of malicious publicity)

    How coincidental !!!

  5. Santosh Kumar (Giri) Says:

    Sunaad (DFO) authentic stuff from you , Good

    From RFO

    Giri

  6. vinay Says:

    Hey, you blew the only juicy bit of controversy that was there in our Kannada filmdom ( apart from what aarthi found interesting in a certain politician)… guess raj would have told them in his own inimitable style

    ‘beda beda antha helda…aadru kelalilla , yakappa hege madthira…’

  7. sudeshkumar Says:

    Sunaad,
    Well done.Nice to see stories about Mysore and in particular about Saraswathipuram.I think u can make a rerular series on this.There are many things which can be told to the rest of world about the life in Saraswathipuram particularly Ram Mandir,Bonda,JSS School,Indravihar Hotel,Bhatta’s churumuri and many more.I think the site is fantastic and brings back all the memories of Myore.Good Luck.

    From Mysorean and Fan of Saraswathipuram
    Sudeshkumar(Yatish)

  8. Mankuthimma Says:

    yella OK, aadre ond saNna tappu yaake ?

    nimma “WHAT IS CHURUMURI?” anno introductory articlenalli, iro sentence idu…

    “May no mother ever succeed in this subversive attempt to make to make Mysore at
    home.”

    Shouldn’t this have been

    “May no mother ever succeed in this subversive attempt to make Churumuri at home.”

  9. Shiv Says:

    Hey,
    That was an interesting story which we have hearing for years..but you have put it very nicely..true..Vishnu was nearly victimised for this episode..
    Good to read some interesting episodes about aNNavaaru

  10. Prakash Tumkur Says:

    An interesting bit of info appeared in Deccan Herald on Page 5 dated April 14, 2006: This is taken from a story headlined: `Who will be our guide’: Leelavathi. The picture above the story shows Leelavathi and her son, Vinod Raj, with their tonsured heads. But the interesting part is buried inside the story. Vinod Raj while talking about Dr Rajkumar says and I quote: …Now, if I want to speak to him for the fourth time, I have to be born as his son in my next life also.” Watch out for that last word: “Also.” Was it just a sub-editor’s mistake or was it that of the reporter or did Vinod Raj let this one slip out.

  11. December Stud Says:

    Prakash,

    Look at the article on thatskananda.com. Exact same photograph, and pretty much same content. There Viod Raj is quoted as “I would like to be born as Rajkumar’s son in my next janma”. The “also” is missing.

    I guess some smart ass in Deccan Herald got a kick out of adding the “also”.

  12. vinay Says:

    prakash, ur usage of ‘One Slip’ in ur post made me recollect the song from pink floyd ..here it goes

    ‘One slip, and down the hole we fall

    It seems to take no time at all

    A momentary lapse of reason

    That binds a life for life

    The one regret, you will never forget

    There’ll be no sleep in here tonight

    One slip… one slip…’

    would this apply even to the thread in question??

  13. Venkatesh Jagadeeshwara Says:

    The article gives a new twist to the old controversy. There is one more version of the story and according to which it was Late Comedian Balakrishna responsible for the interchange of the gun at the location ,although not a deliberate attempt, the unit decided it to cover it up to protect the veteran actor. This was revealed after the death of Balakrishna by Vishnuvardhan himself.

    Regards,
    Venkatesh

  14. dreamer2702 Says:

    interesting, nice style of writing.

  15. kannadapremi Says:

    Sunaad,

    Thanks for narrating the story. Your writing always carries that extra weightage, when it comes to Dr. Raj, may it be about the maintenance of Raj’s samadhi or about Dr. Raj’s International hotel. That’s what makes your writing so very interesting. Regarding the incident on Gandhada Gudi, that’s not what I have heard. Straight from the horse’s mouth, that is M.P.Shankar, has narrated in detail in ‘Rupatara’ magzine, as to what happened exactly. Refer to Rupatara in the last few months. As per him, it was late Balakrishna who was responisble for the switch. Of course it was not intentional. M.P. Shankar narrates it beautifully linking all the events that led to the incident. If any one is interested, I can look it up and let you know, which ‘Rupatara’ had this article.

    But finally, I am so thankful to God that Raj was not hurt at that time. I still feel that it was Veerappan incident that killed him. He was physically and mentally exhausted. Otherwise he would have lived to be 100.

  16. Nastika Says:

    Wow. Finally something concrete !!

  17. prashanth Says:

    Ya .Good to hear the truth

  18. gajee Says:

    @Prakash Tumkur and @December Studd :

    I have seen vinod raj cry and mouth those exact words LIVE on tv at kanteerava studios when raj was being cremated

    “mundina janmadallu naanu avra maganaagey hutbeku” is what he muttered…!!!

    I have seen it LIVE on TV

  19. Prashanth Kumar Says:

    My sincere salutes to Dr Vishnu.May his soul rest in peace.

  20. Raghuram,Chitradurga Says:

    Really the ‘real fact’ about the incident is thrilling, but unfortunately today we miss all the legends(Dr.Raj, Dr.Vishnu, Balakrishna and M.P.Shankar) of ‘Gandhada Gudi’.

  21. kadamba Says:

    Idiots… how do you know this guys is telling the truth?! This is the sad story of our dumb indians who just believe anything! Where is the proof? Grow up kids.

  22. p v sudarshan bharateeya Says:

    But….
    But….Isn’t this incident that kept Vishnuvardhan each day, every day, each film, every film even when he crossed his 175th movie in Sandalwood?
    Vishnu was hardly 3 movies old when he acted with Raj in Gandhadha Gudi. In the absence of a proper and explicit clarification from all the 4 concerned, including the Range Forest Officer, Vishnu’s career suffered in the late 80s when the pro-Raj camp continued to stamp the latter and his films not sparing the wall posters. Between his 5th and 195th movie, the unworthy group of select Kannadigas kept mudslinging { say…Cow dung} Vishnu’s any and every poster anywhere and everywhere.
    He ran up to Chennai twice only to return to his favourite city.
    Years later just a couple of months before MP Shankar passed away, in my interview at Mysore, he had cut a sorry figure about the injustice done on Dr Vishnu by all of them, including the Raj camp, with regard to the rifle issue.
    Thanks to the selfish motives, the live and let die attitudes!! -Sudarshan Bharatiya, Sr.News Producer,News9

  23. naga Says:

    Vishnu dada yavaglu dadaaaaa…. ne simha yavaglu simhane

  24. Sharan Says:

    What a heartbreaking movie in Kannada film Industry, because of this Movie someone started blaming Dr. Raj and someone started blaming Dr. Vishnu. We will waste our life by blaming others only. Forget all these yaar be practical, look at their achievements in Kannada film Industry, no one in Kannda film industry will become neither Vishnuvardhar nor Dr. Raj in future. Any way Dr. Raj escaped from that situation but Vishnuvardhan struggled to servive in this earth because for that incidence(??). This is not because of Great actor Rajkumar but this is because of stupid fans.

  25. mvmk Says:

    dr,raj is the greatest and no one can replace him as the leader of kannada cinema

  26. Jyothi Says:

    In the last scene of Gandhaha Gudi, have we thought who was really responsible for Sahasasimha Dr.Vishnu’s long suffered career ? Wasn’t it the the forest officer who neglected his loaded riffle ? While on duty in the forest region, wasn’t that his job to secure his weapon from falling into wrong hands and probably be mis-used ? Besides, loaded weapon was given to him by the Government for protecting human beings from wild life, not for forgetting about whose possession it is and enjoying his lunch time with the film crew.

    I admire MP Shankar as an actor and as a movie maker. But isn’t it his repsonsibility to clarify the incident sooner and defend an innocent,young and then an upcoming actor who worked for him from unnecessarily take the blame ?

    Why put the blame only on Dr.Rajkumar’s fans ? It was responsibility of every kannadiga or atleast everyone involved in the incident to clarify the situation to the public. We need to understand that fans are only public who rely on the media for tne news who rely on the film crew for the truth.

    On the 2nd death anniversary of Dr.Vishnuvardhan and seeing his unbeatable performances in his movies, I see a shadow of sorrow on his face in many of his pictures. Kannadigas would have gotten lot more from Vishnu had the truth about GandhadaGudi scene was brought to limelight by some of his selfish collegues. Kanndigas would seen more movies in which Dr.Raj and Dr.Vishnu worked together.

  27. Manu.T Says:

    “I i’m really thankful to this site to displaying a huge news that was wondering from so many days in us”. Please make sure that you will publish this matter, to each & every media networks who are all talking rubbish about this gossip.

  28. Jagdish Says:

    What I have heard about the Dr Rajkumar vs Dr Vishnuvardan from a very close relative relative of Dr Rajkumar:

    Dr Vishnuvardhan lost a few key family members which led to his depression in the last few years before his death. He was also stabbed in the back by a ‘kulla’ who was the architect of the feud between Dr.Rajkumar and Dr.Vishnuvardhan for his personal motive. While DR Rajkumar preferred to act with seniors artists like Balakrishna and Ashwath and Narsimharaju, the ‘kulla’ poisoned Dr Vishnuvardhan’s mind that Dr Rajkumar was against him thus getting to star in a few meaty roles with Dr Vishnuvardhan. It was only after Dr Rajkumar’s death during or after ‘Apthamithra’ that Dr Vishnuvardhan realise the whole truth which put him under further depression.

    The moral of the story is ‘Kallranna nambidru kullranna nabmba baradu!’

  29. sangu sangam Says:

    Hi guyz..
    it’s unfortunate to hear many shitty gossips evn aftr d death of both d legends.
    Dnt blame Dr Raj,bcoz he was as innoscent as a baby.But he was surrounded by few selfish thugs who were d creators of many controvercial gossips for their benefit.
    Dr Vishnu was undoubtedly one of d most handsome heroes in indian film industry. He never hated any living being in his life. But he too was targetted as like Lilavati,Vinodraj by few miscriminents.it is not secret that who is who in case of Lilavati but it was greatness of Lilavati that not revealing anything about her ‘Doddavru’,even when she was humilated enough by d society.hats-off to her.in all these dr raj too was helpless.
    But atleast now it can b corrected by Shivanna,Raghanna and Appu.they too know d reality.All d kannadigas know abt greatness of these bros.
    it wil b a gr8 move if Shivanna,Raghanna n Appu unfold their arms to hug Leelavati amma,Vinodraj n Bharati Vishu.no doubt every kannadiga feels happy n evn Dr Raj n Dr Vishnu may b happy too.

  30. S C Ramesh Says:

    Long live Dr Vishnuvardhan

  31. Gaddu Says:

    Hi,

    its an interesting one..which clarifies all the doubts,exactly what was happened on that time. thanks for explanation.

  32. Saikumar Says:

    hmm good info. but our Vishnu dada was targeted for such long years due to this . Really felt sad. But still those goons are not booked !!

  33. Radhika Says:

    Raj and Leelavathi story began in 1965, during the shoot of ‘Maduve Madi Nodu’. It was at this time she became pregnant. Leelavati did not play with rajkumar from 1965 except old commitment films till 1972. For 7 years she was not able to speak and show his own son. leela was barred from raj films. so, she changed son name vinod to ‘vinodraj’ syncs with raj’s original name muthuraj. They second movie was in 1974 famous hit Bhaktha Kumbar, the film had scenes in which had connection with vinod raj real story. in a scene leelavathi asks about his son, and raj says it is mistake. Then people stopped supporting leelavathi. the movie janma rahasya of 1972 also has the same story about vinod raj.

    1987, vinod raj gave a huge hit. the title song was written so that people can understand the story of his. in 1988, shivrajkumar gave message in ranaranga title song that ‘raja’ will be stamped. Vinod Raj was stamped. That song was voiced by rajkumar himself, giving message to vinodraj. please hear both ‘dance raja dance’ song and ‘ranaranga’ song properly.

    in 2006, after rajkumar death. anantnag did not see dead body. he gave story of ‘kannadada kanda’. in that movie, death of shankar nag is shown in the film, how it was done. in one scene, vinod raj reveals father name as Dr ********. in 2009, vinod raj film ‘shukra’, he asks rajkumar in rajkumar voice. It is a song ‘Kannu Neeru’

  34. asha Says:

    Radhika,

    Also Leelamma acted as mother of Lakshmi in Naa Ninna Mareyalare, and raj was the hero. Also interesting is after Raj’s death Leelamma shaved her head and stopped wearing bindi while Parvathamma has not done the same being official wife of Raj..irony

  35. Deepak Says:

    @Radhika – what an astounding conspiracy theory!!!
    BTW : When you say Anantnag did not see Rakjumar’s body, its completely wrong. I clearly remember seeing visuals of him visting Rajkumar’s house and also talking about it to NDTV’s Maya Sharma and saying how quiet and respectful the crowd were.

  36. dr ramesh Says:

    Anant nag was one of the first visitors who came calling to Raj residence on the day of his death. There are TV visuals.
    Leelavathi also acted in a charecter role along side ashwath in Dr Raj superhit Shravana banthu.
    Conspiracy theories apart —- legend of Dr.Raj only grows.
    Most sculpted person —— his statues present in most of Bangalore busy road junctions.

  37. Vishwa Says:

    However VISHNU dada was evergreen actor and made 220 film as actor which is record in cinema industry and no one can cross him and he always the best

  38. Deepak Says:

    The death of PBS is a big loss to Kannada music. Inspite of being from another state, he always spoke flawless Kannada and wore the Mysore peta always. It is really tragic that the Kannada industry ignored his death, Dr.Raj’s family should have been present at his last rites, it is distressing that they didn’t even bother to react publicly forget going to Chennai. And it is sad that even Churumuri didn’t publish anything about the great singer.

  39. DEEPAK H Says:

    DR. Raj is god of world cinema, who thru his mesmerising talent epoused social values, breathed life into
    historical characters, emperors,saints, alike.
    Think of gods,saints, kings, etc and Dr .rajs’ stature comes forward.
    He is a cultural icon, pride of kannadigas, a kohinoor jewel bestowed to us by god.
    He was liked by people form all walks of life cutting across demographic and geographics.
    Illiterates, literates,academicians, poets, unanimously annointed him as representative of kannada culture.
    Kannada language has 8 jnanapeeth awardees, but one unmatched,unparalled ,cultural icon of kannada culture.
    DR.Raj abstained from smoking and drinking in his personal life and also on screen, upholding traditional values all thru his life.
    During gokak movement, which was started by literattuers to pressurise the govt to implement gokak recommendations to ensure justice to kannada, the movement gained momentum only after DR.Raj jumped into the movement after being urged by the litteratuers , only than the whole of karnataka stood united and the recommendations in the report was implemented.

    That was the affection showered by kannadigas from all walks of life on DR.Raj who is fondly called as Annavru.

    To put it in a sentence ” All genre actors in world film fraternity put together , you may get a glimpse of Dr.Raj kumar.

    Speaking lightly of Annavru is unbecoming of a kannadiga or human being. The person stooping to such a level is insulting entire
    kannada speaking people.

  40. DEEPAK H Says:

    LONG LIVE ANNAVRU IN MINDS OF TRUE KANNADIGAS

  41. Prasad Says:

    Is it true that Bharati and not Kalpana who acted first in Gandhada Gudi and abandoned it when Vishnu was victimised

  42. vrushab Says:

    vishnu was just targeted as he was performed well in nagarahavu movie which set a record across karnataka … as per media record the film completed 100 days in bangaluru itself !!! and it was first kannada movie to complete 100 day in bangaluru in two theatres!!!!!!!!!!!

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