Vishnuvardhan, initially called Sampath Kumar, was a popular actor in the Kannada film industry. He acted in some Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam and Tamil movies. An Honorary Doctorate was awarded to the actor by Bangalore University in 2005.
His Early Days and Education
Sampath Kumar was born on September 18, 1950 to H.L. Narayana Rao and Kamakshamma in Chamundipuram, Mysore. His father was a musician and scriptwriter. Vishnuvardhan has six siblings, one of whom, Rama Ramachandran, was a Kathak dancer at the Mysore Palace. He graduated from National College in Basavanagudi, Bangalore.
His Film, Television and Singing Career
Vishnuvardhan’s debut movie Vamsavruksha was a National Award winning movie. His first lead role was in Naagara Haavu, directed by Puttanna Kanagal. It was Puttanna Kanagal who suggested that he should change his name to Vishnuvardhan.
After Naagara Haavu, Vishnuvardhan became a much sought after star, and in a career spanning three and a half decades, he acted in over 200 movies. Though he was a mainstream actor with a great fan following and a high star value, he also acted in off-beat movies like Harakeya Kuri.
Vishnuvardhan played the lead in an episode of Malgudi Days directed by Shankar Nag. He played the role of Venkat Rao in the episode, Rupees Forty Five a Month.
Vishnuvardhan had a good voice and sang in movies occasionally. He first sang in the film Nagarahole and later went on to sing many devotional songs, releasing many albums. Some of his albums were Jyothiroopa Ayyappa, Thayi Banashankari and Vishwapremi Ayyappa.
His Demise and Legacy
Vishnuvardhan passed away on the 30th of Dec 2009, following a massive heart attack. He had a huge fan following, so his was placed at the National College Grounds near Basavanagudi where lakhs of people thronged to pay homage to their beloved star.
In recognition of the services rendered by him to the Kannada Film Industry, the Karnataka state government then instituted a lifetime achievement award in his name.
Vishnuvardhan was married to actress Bharathi. They adopted two daughters, Keerthi and Chandana. He did a lot of charity work publicly and off camera too. The actor’s initiatives and helpful acts came to light after his death, when many of his beneficiaries recalled them on television.