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Ambareesh: Godfather of Kannada Film Industry Who Was Too Candid for Politics

Ambareesh deserved the title of ‘Rebel Star’. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he was open about his relationships, drinking habits, gambling, lifestyle etc.

D P Satish | News18dp_satish

Updated:November 25, 2018, 11:07 AM IST
Ambareesh: Godfather of Kannada Film Industry Who Was Too Candid for Politics
Ambareesh has acted in over 200 films and served as the Karnataka housing minister in the previous Siddaramaiah-led cabinet.

Bengaluru: Ambareesh who died of sudden illness on Saturday night was not just an actor, but also a politician. An MLA, MP, minister at both the state and the Centre. Not many stars had achieved that.

He was highly successful as a film star, acting in close to 250 movies. He was considered to be the "godfather" of the Kannada film industry.

He handled multiple roles with ease in the last 44 years. Ambareesh had a casual approach towards most things in life. He was rarely serious about anything.

Born into an illustrious family of the great violinist, Peteel Chowdaia, Ambareesh made his debut in the 1972 superhit Kannada movie Naagarahaavu. His role was small; that of young, 18-year-old wayward Jaleel. But it made him a household name overnight. Vishnuvardhan, who also made his debut as the lead actor in the movie, went onto become the second most famous hero in Kannada after the late Rajkumar. Vishnuvardhan died in 2009.

Ambareesh deserved the title ‘Rebel Star’. He had actually earned it. Unlike many of his contemporaries in cinema, Ambareesh was open about his relationships, drinking habits, gambling, lifestyle etc. He hated hypocrisy.

His roles in Kannada were path-breaking. He broke away from the convention of heroes not drinking, smoking on silver screen. Ambareesh's roles were diverse. They were new experiments in Kannada cinema, which was too comfortable with the template movies.

He was a race enthusiast and was a fixture at the century-old Bangalore Turf Club. He was also fond of fast cars and expensive liquor.

Speaking to a reporter a few years ago, Ambareesh had said, "Film stars are also human beings. We have all the flaws. Maybe more flaws than others. Acting is different and living like others is different. I don't hide anything from my fans, my voters. I smoke, I drink. What is wrong in that?"

His friendship with Tamil superstar Rajinikanth is legendary.

He was also the unofficial ombudsman of Kannada cinema. Whenever there was a dispute between members of the film industry, they used to seek his intervention. His words carried weight.

As a politician, Ambareesh was not a success. Though he won Assembly and Lok Sabha elections and was a minister both at Centre and state, he never took it seriously. He was too straightforward for that job. He did not have the manipulative skills to survive in politics.

He resigned as MP twice over the Cauvery river water dispute. He had also quit as Union Minister of State, Information and Broadcasting during UPA- 1 after he felt slighted.

"Power is not a big deal. I don't think twice before quitting. What is power if it is just ornamental?" he once said.

After Siddaramaiah dropped him from his cabinet in 2016, Ambareesh was upset. He was not bothered about losing power, but was upset over the manner in which he was removed. After that, he maintained a distance from both the Congress and politics.

He took revenge two years later by refusing to contest on the Congress ticket in Assembly elections. The rout of the Congress in Mandya in the recent polls was credited to him.

After the death of Rajkumar in 2006, Ambareesh filled the void by leading the Kannada cinema both off and on screen.

He had no enemies. He had friends in all political parties and all factions in the cinema industry because he never held grudges against anyone.

He lived life to the fullest. And there won't be another like Ambareesh.

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