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'Of the other Rajkumar favourites, T G Lingappa and Nagendra (of Rajan-Nagendra fame) died in the last two years, while G K Venkatesh died in the early '90s.'
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Another composer bids goodbye

Upendra Kumar, maker of hit Rajkumar melodies, dies of jaundice

Upendra Kumar, music director for scores of Rajkumar hits, died in Bangalore on Thursday, 24 January.

The 62-year-old composer died of jaundice at M S Ramaiah Hospital, a week after the release of his latest film Gramadevate. That mythological, replete with miracles and special effects, tells the tale of a goddess from Itagi in northern Karnataka. Another of his films, Vishwamitra, is due for release.

Upendra Kumar's best tunes were made for Rajkumar films, and he was associated with many of that star's home productions. His biggest hits were Premada Kanike and Shankar Guru. His debut film was also a Rajkumar adventure, Kathariveera (1966).

Jeevanachaitra, for which Rajkumar won a national award for best playback singer (for the classical raga-based number Nadamaya), also had Upendra Kumar's music. Jeevanachaitra campaigned agaist drink, and ironically, Upendra Kumar reportedly suffered poor health in recent years because of his drinking.

Upendra Kumar was among Kannada cinema's better-known composers of the last generation, although it cannot be said that the music he made was consistently good. His vachana recordings, reviewed recently in The Music Magazine, lacked lustre.

Of the other Rajkumar favourites, T G Lingappa and Nagendra (of Rajan-Nagendra fame) died in the last two years, while G K Venkatesh died in the early '90s. Rajkumar's latest release Shabdavedi had music by a composer of the next generation, Hamsalekha.

Upendra Kumar hailed from Oriya, and lived in Madras for the most part of his career. He scored music for 210 films. He was called upon to make the music for films starring Rajkumar's children as well. In Nanjudi Kalyana, he made the famously hiccupy Olage seridare gundu, shot on Malashri and Raghavendra Rajkumar. The Shivaraj Kumar starrer Rathasaptami also had his music.

The mandolin and the sitar were prominently used in Upendra Kumar's instrumentation, and he was particularly fond of raga Kafi and melodies deriving from that scale. Idu yaaru bareda katheyo, his memorable hit in Premada Kanike, was based on this raga.

In the '80s, Upendra Kumar recorded a series of albums with Rajkumar singing songs in praise of saint Raghavendra Swami, and deities like Hanuman. Upendra Kumar's tunes for Guruvara banthamma and Haalalladaru haaku have become popular among the devout.

Some Upendra Kumar films: Hasiru Torana, Kamanabillu, Saptapadi, Odahuttidavaru, Dhurvatare, Apoorva Sangama.

Some memorable Upendra Kumar songs:

Ellige payana yaavudo daari
Neenaro eno sakha
Ee sambhashane
Baanigondu elle ellide
Idu yaaru bareda katheyo
Olage seridare gundu
Ganga yamuna sangama

TMM Desk

Published on 26  January 2002

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