Kannada superstar Puneeth Rajkumar, son of actor-singer Rajkumar, is one of the leading actors in the industry. The actor who was last seen in Natasaarvabhowma, is staying indoors during the lockdown and has been active in spreading awareness regarding the novel coronavirus pandemic.
At a session titled Power Star Puneeth’s Punch at the India Today E-Conclave Corona Series, Puneeth Rajkumar spoke about how he is dealing with the lockdown, the state of the Kannada film industry and spending his birthday and his dad’s birth anniversary.
Excerpts of the conversation:
You are a people’s person, so how difficult it is to stay away from your fan base?
Initially, it started with celebrations of birthdays and we have a lot of people from different parts of Karnataka coming over to greet. At this point, it is important for citizens to follow every single rule of the government. If they ask us to quarantine ourselves, it’s better to follow that. We kept going on social media platforms to tell people that celebration can wait.
For a superstar, we assume that you have it all sorted. How difficult it is for you?
Our work format is going to the studio or an outdoor location to shoot. There’s nothing called work from home for us. The situation is such that all of us have to be careful and our safety comes first. It’s been difficult.
It was your birthday recently. In the past, we have seen people coming with cakes and you take selfies with everyone. How did it go this time?
The entire country is talking about only one thing, the coronavirus. Initially, we had to reach out through every medium asking them not to come and stay home till things are better.
We have been hearing about job losses in the Kannada film industry. It’s difficult to revive the film industry. What’s your take on it?
Ours is a huge industry and we make close to about 140 projects a year. There were a lot of projects going on. Some people depend on daily wages and there are different unions at different levels. A lot of them are jobless at the moment and we, as an industry, have got together to help people. We are trying to take care of their basic needs at least. I know that it will take a few months to get everything on track. We understand that right now, you need to stay at home and take care of the rest later.
You are a gym freak, are you missing it now?
The gym is a luxury but you don’t need a huge space to work out. You just need to keep yourself fit and build your immunity right now. I am trying to do a lot of things at home. I haven’t been home for this long before. It’s nice and fun as I am getting to spend a lot of time with my family. My brother also lives next door. I’ve just started cooking and learned how to make sambar, paneer burji and aloo sabzi. Other than that, I watch a lot of movies on OTT platforms and also catch up with my dad’s films.
Can you speak about your workout routine?
I wake up and do a little bit of cross fit, martial arts and yoga. I mix it up and do every day. I am not following any diet and would have put on 2-3 kilos. When the lockdown is lifted, I aim to get in shape.
It’s your father Rajkumar’s birth anniversary today. He’s an actor par excellence. What are your memories?
I am so happy and blessed to say that I’m in his son. There are statues of him across Karnataka, and people usually celebrate this day in a big way. But, this year, his fan associations have taken the opportunity to give ration to people and spread awareness during the Covid-19 crisis. They have been doing this from the day the lockdown was announced. It’s so nice of them.
After a long time, we went to the samadhi (resting place called Dr Rajkumar Samadhi) once we got permissions. We were also talking about which film of his to watch. I came live on Instagram and dedicated a song for all his fans. I still see kids who are listening to his songs.
Activism came naturally to him. If Dr Rajkumar was alive, what would he have done?
Probably, they would have done the same thing was hat we are doing today. They would have probably created more awareness. Either we need to get used to the virus or the virus should get used to us. Not only our state, but the entire country is also doing a great job in containing the virus. Still, we keep seeing a lot of problems happening here and there.
We panicked initially when the lockdown was announced. We have watched it in films and never thought it would happen in reality. When there are so many people working for us, we have to take it positively and win over it.
Your dad was a pan-India star. But, you are rooted in Kannada cinema. Are you planning to transcend borders?
Cinema has no language. Our films which have been made here are dubbed across India. Now, films have gone global and we just have to look for the right content. I feel blessed to know that people recognise me in North India and abroad because our films have been dubbed. Acting has no language today. I’m open to anything that gives out a good message and is entertaining.
The film industry is struggling today. Is there any innovative stuff Kannada cinema is trying to explore?
There are a lot of new technologies coming out and so many OTT platforms. Me being an actor, I feel that there will a huge change in digital cinema. Till the lockdown is in place, I don’t know when we would get to shoot. We are sitting at home trying to read scripts and books.
How are your colleagues?
All of us are good friends, we talk once a week. Everyone would have their own things to do at home. We message each other on and off to check on each other. At least now, we have got facilities like electricity and food. Imagine how things were 100 years ago when the plague came. You couldn’t get information about the neighbouring country.
What is the one thing about your family that you have discovered during the lockdown?
Doing household work is different. I didn’t know cooking needs a lot of patience. Now, you really know the difficulties of what’s going on in your home. My daughters watch a lot of movies, series and shows. One good thing is getting back to old games like carrom board, monopoly and ludo. We are taking out our old albums and reminiscing old times. It’s good fun to take a short walk to the supermarket, which I have never done before. It’s a proper 15-minute walk with your mask.
Most of us are privileged, but a lot of people are struggling. What are you doing as an individual?
The only thing we can is depend on donations to the government. We are also trying to feed people, giving them rations. They have to get back to work because it’s how they can sustain. So, I hope work gets sorted soon. I pray that things get back to normal soon. People are at home and I hope everyone follows it more religiously. People, especially the police, doctors, nurses are fighting for us. All of us should stay home and stay safe.
E-Conclave Corona Series is an online avatar of the India Today Group’s premier thought event, the India Today Concalve. The series will focus on what is turning out to be one of humanity’s greatest challenges — the Covid-19 pandemic.