“Always do right. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” – Mark Twain
The word Chikkappa means “someone who is similar to father”, father’s younger brother. My celebration of Raju Chikkappa dates back to early childhood when we were told at home he will be visiting us…honestly it was no less than a festive mood. Mum used to cook something special – a sweet meal, savories and even a Spicy rice. More than the physical mood it was something strange in the corner of the heart – the joy of speaking to him, joy of sharing our achievements as a student at school, showing a pic which we drew at school, memorized poem, beating a pal on a street game – Marble, lagori(played using stones), to some extent even narrating a latest movie story or a song or a recent thrilling cricket match off course in which India would have own.
He never visited alone…always had a gang, a gang who tried to achieve and leave their mark in the fairy dream land of Sandalwood – Shivmani, Om Prakash Rao …were his early compatriots in the Drama company with which they had found together to act in Rangmanchs in many parts of Karnataka. Chikkappa was special because of his association with stars, his performance in plays, Kannada daily soaps and in the sandalwood…the Kannada Movie land.
Chikkappa and his gang(my father was also a part briefly), performed a play – “MUDUKANA MADUVE” (Old Man’s Wedding) in the Ganapathi Pendal, which I was a member(was 6 yrs old ..collected money from cyclists, who were been shouted to stop and pay as a matter of toll for using our Road which was also our pitch to many games). The play was a big hit among the local friend circle, who appreciated the acting skills…I went on about for a long time proudly saying that play was directed by Chikkappa and even though I didn’t understand much as I was young and fell asleep mid way through – I kept on appreciating Chikkappa’s performance by just looking at some of the photographs taken from the scenes of the play.
Chikkappa was at a Degree college(SJRC, Anand Rao Circle) studying BSc, was not too keen finishing as I remember. He was hardly going to classes as he always wanted to follow the footsteps of Somu Doddappa(Uncle who went on to leave a great mark in Sandalwood and a definite void in our lives, will talk some other time). The influence of Somu doddappa on Chikkappa was that of a Guru or a Jedi master’s influence on a young Yoda aspirant. A relation beyond anybody’s comprehension – a pure, spiritual and devoid of any selfishness. A relation in epic term equal to that of Lord Krishna – Arjuna, Rama – Anjaneya, to which I have read to a great extent, but “Doddappa- Chikkappa” I witnessed my whole life in amazement and the sacrifices and struggles both made in their life is no less than any fictional or herculean feat. A feat we ordinary mortals could just read in fictional books and just appreciate what they have done together in this very mortal life, a blessed life of ours just being a deaf witness in their journey, my part was just that of a shabby character. But learnt many things from you both especially how to value a relationship, yet a long way to bring that thing to practice.
Chikkappa was part of a 13 episode serial – which was telecasted weekly on Doordarshan, he was a Co-director as well had a brief character role. He used to let us know about it before hand, the whole 13 weeks waited eagerly to watch him on the screen, needless to say his character was just a few seconds in one single episode. But the joy to see him on the screen and the proud was immense. Used to go about this forever with friends at school and on with the fellow kids in the block.
I was in Year 2 or 3 at school and there was Aunt’s wedding in Doddaballapur, it was a chance to visit another town as a kid. But what made it eventful was that of Raju Chikkappa’s presence, still afresh, the only journey I traveled with him in this life. This was of a surprise to us by dad as he told us to wait in the bus platform(Majestic) and he came back accompanying Raju Chikkappa and told us he will join us in the journey. Chikkappa took us to the nearest restaurant store and fetched us chocolates and biscuits. Along with it offered us a bonus..!, he bought us a soft drink, myself and Vinu(my Sis) were elated as we have just seen the Thumbs Up ad in the Doordarshan. The joy of drinking a soft drink was fulfilled by him. The whole journey we chatted with chikkappa who showed us Hebbal lake, Aircrafts at Jakkur and green paddy fields with trees all along. The journey was about 90mins but it was very exciting and unforgettable to date because Chikkappa was with us.
Chikkappa was smart and charming and as matter of fact few girls in the family were eyeing him, but nothing materialized within the family as he was too busy to pay attention to his own personal life. He was very kind, generous and lived a saintly life away from the temptations of a marriage most of his life.
Chikkappa used to be very busy with his schedules as it was very demanding and also it meant lot of travel as he was too keen working in Cine field. During high school and college days it was a real privilege to meet him even for a moment out of his busy schedule. He used to come to functions and parties for a brief visit to be surrounded by all inquiring about his latest Cine project and his experiences abroad. He had visited few European countries, Australia and NZ on his projects, once he told he had a chance to get his hair cut in Italy in one of the famous fashion houses. He was associated with various production houses like Eswari Productions, Rockline productions, Om Prakash productions mostly and was part of some of the major blockbusters of Kannada cinema. He had worked extensively with industry stalwarts like Vishnuvardhan, Ambarish, Ravichandran, Shivanna, Punith & Upendra. He had been appreciated by many in the industry, he never aimed high, never wanted to be in limelight, just toiled away his entire career behind the scenes as a Dialogue writer, Associate and Assistant director roles. He had worked for 3 decades close to 100 Kannada movies and was been on demand for his craftsmanship and creativity. Some of it are listed in the link
Off lately once I moved to UK for a decade now, I got to hear just few snippets about him, also few times called but never could feel the same warmth of talking face to face. The last time I saw him was at my home warming ceremony (2013), he came bit late in the evening… talked over his projects briefly, had dinner together and he blessed me for the new home and future. There was something deep inside me a dream to work in Sandalwood, which I had never told anyone, finally I asked him about a chance to work as his assistant, for which he smiled and said come back to India we will do something together, he never said no to anyone, at least I have not seen him saying it. I always wished to work with him in the cine field and learn from him some of the tricks of the trade, but that looks a distant dream now.
The 3 decades of cine life and loneliness has taken its toll on him, start of this year(2016) dad told about Chikkappa’s illness and eventual hospitalization, I just hoped and prayed for his fast recovery, which he did in a way for a day or two. Dad told Chikkappa’s discharge and recovery, I was elated and optimistic to catch up with him at leisure talking to him at length, indeed a honor and privilege to spend some quality time discussing varied aspects of his life, dreams, aspirations and Cine world. The whole journey from London-Bangalore was that of a contemplation, pray and hope, which lived short and was told at the Bangalore airport that he was hospitalized again and condition was serious, from which he never recovered and I could never peek into his heart, a quivering grief which will haunt forever.
He married late and was too busy for it as well, but nevertheless didn’t bring much joy to his lonely life, apparently the sour episode of his life. Remembering Chikkappa is not just his being – he was joy of our childhood, he was a moral guide for dos and donts in life, we learnt many things by just seeing him, talking to him was always a skip of a heartbeat, a joyous moment which was very limited in our lives as he was busy in his Cini Loka to him no less than his love “Prema Loka”.
Chikkappa was of high principled, committed, hard working, good natured, Soft spoken, devoid of any temptations of life, warm, welcoming and above all a cheerful smiley face( a face which will be with me forever), success, fame and money were last in his scheme of things, a multifaceted personality beyond anybody’s limited comprehension, a soul which is pure, spiritual – blessed are our “Ajja-Ajji” to bring life such a blissful soul to this very Earth. Wish to see you again – “Chikkappa”, will miss you forever. The sadness of loosing you will haunt us forever.