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Finally the breaking news is out. Victory Venkatesh has now agreed to work in the Telugu remake version of Kannada blockbuster film Aaptha Rakshaka. Though the names of Chiranjeevi, Balakrishna were making rounds earlier, finally it is Venkatesh who will be doing this role. Though Chiranjeevi showed little interest in working in this film, he had to shed weight for the role and his dates for the shooting could not be taken for granted. Meanwhile, Bellamkonda Suresh who paid a whopping amount to director P.Vasu for obtaining the remake righs had decided to start the film early to ward off some of his financial troubles.

So now the Telugu Sequel to blockbuster Aaptha Mithra and Chandramukhi will be finally shaping up sans the original hero, superstar Rajnikant. Venkatesh will be doing the lead role in Chandramukhi

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Ajay Rao is the self confessed Royal Star of Sandalwood. How he treats his producers is nothing less than a royal snub. The latest victim of his royal treatment is producer Praveen, who not so long ago helped the actor out of generosity. Ajay was offered 'Manasina Maatu' by producer Praveen right after Taj Mahal. He was even paid an advance for a remuneration fixed at Rs 14 lakh. This was almost five times what Ajay got for Taj Mahal. Just when Praveen was ready to start the shooting, he learnt that Ajay had signed up two more films; Prem Kahani and Jaaji Mallige. The matter reached the Producers' Association where Rockline managed to

convince Ajay to act in Praveen's film first.

Ajay had other plans. Two days later he attended the press meet announcing Jaaji Mallige first. When Praveen reached there Ajay was all butter and pleaded with the producer. He offered to cut his remuneration by half so that Praveen would let him do the two films first. With no other option the producer agreed.

Jaaji Mallige and Prem Kahani did not do well at the box office. But Praveen did not back off and paid Rs 4 lakh installment and started shooting. By the time the shooting was complete Praveen was out of money and requested Ajay to complete dubbing and receive the remaining remuneration later. Ajay blankly refused. The matter again went to the Producers' Association where Ajay agreed to take Rs one lakh and complete dubbing in front of the association's secretaries including Joe Simon.

Ajay refused to accept the money once he was out of the Association. He went back on his word so easily that Praveen wondered why the actor would not show these acting abilities in front of the camera. Ajay complained to the Karnataka Cine Artistes' Association. The matter finally came back to the producers where Ajay was severely chastised. He took the payment and completed dubbing for the film.

This is not the first time that Ajay has shown his true colors. When he was cast in Excuse Me by Prem, he was nobody. The film became a big hit and Ajay signed films left, right and centre as if the success depended on him. He vanished from Sandalwood in a short time. Then it was R Chandru who gave him a new lease of life by casting him in Taj Mahal. He was also paid Rs 3 lakh for the film which was almost a life saving gesture.

Ajay however did not even turn up for the press meet when the film was released. He showed his face only after the fourth week when the film was declared a hit. He called a press meet on his own and declared himself the 'Royal Star.'

When Prem Kahani was released he was all praise for the director and said the film would be a landmark whatever its fate at the box office. After the film was released and tanked at the box office, he went on to claim that he had not liked the story in the first place but the director was not listening to him. It is to be seen what royal postures Ajay takes in his future films, if at all producers continue to cast him.

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Radhakrishna was the driver and personal aide of Dr Vishnuvardhan for 33 years. He performed the last rites of the actor on December 31. In his own words, he recollects his association with the Sahasa Simha. "I come from a place called Uarkala near Trivandrum. I was a teenager when I went to Bombay with my brother-in-law. He got a job in Dubai and I dremt of going there for work myself . After that I came to Bangalore in 1976 and met Mukunda, the brother of Bharati Vishnuvardhan. I was taken to Vishnu sir's home and he instantly liked me. He was very down to earth and gave me fruits to eat. I was just 15-16 years old then.

DUBAI DREAMS

"Over the years, I became his personal driver and aide. He fulfilled my every dream. He took me on a holiday to Dubai years later. He knew about my old dream of working in Dubai. But working for him was more than going anywhere else in the world. He got me married in 1993 and I was more like a family member than anything else. He even gifted me an Ambassador car 20 years ago.

"My day would start early. If there was a shooting schedule, I would reach sir's home at 6 am. He would already be awake by then and come out just hearing the sound of my bike. He preferred to sit in the front seat even when I insisted that he should sit in the back so that fans would not mob the car. In the early days I was afraid of even turning to the left because he was seated there. But slowly I lost my apprehensions.

DRIVING FOR HIM

"After I started working for him, I would never let him drive himself. But he loved sports cars and had a large collection of imported ones. We dropped Dharmendra to the airport in one of Vishnu sir's imported Fiat sports car. While driving him around, I would be very cautious. But he would insist on stopping whenever fans waved to him and called him out. If the shooting was nearby or in Mysore only he would come. Otherwise bhabhi (smt. Bharati Vishnuvardhan) and the children would accompany.

"I had to decide the route and take him on time. He was very disciplined and would never like to go late for any work. If we were being delayed he would not say anything but just give a fake cough and I had to understand to drive faster.

"I carried his mobile phone when he was shooting or meditating. So, I would receive all the calls made to him and inform him later. I would leave for home after he went to sleep. My wife very understood about my work. In the last 33 years I have not taken a personal holiday except when I went to meet my mother. I would be with him all the time and knew what he needed without him telling me.

"On December 29, I was in Bangalore and spoke to him at 9.30 pm. He said he will come to Bangalore only if I drove him. I was travelling to Mysore that night to get him back in the morning when I got the call that he was no more..."

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As a 16-year-old Sridhar joined Vishnuvardhan's household as a help in 1980. Over the next three decades he became the actor's father, mentor and life. His story in his own words... "I am from Chandaravalli near Sagara. I had lost my father at a very young age. I had to take care of my mother, two sisters and a brother. I came to Bangalore in 1980 and was staying with a relative. I came to know from my relative Krishnamurthy that there was a job at Vishnu sir's house.

"While leaving for Bangalore from my village, I had seen a cobra with its hood spread (Naagarahaavu). In Bangalore I became a member of the Naagarahaavu hero. He became my foster father and gave me everything. When I joined his household, the only thing I owned was the shirt and trouser I was wearing then. The very first day, he saw to it that I was comfortable.

"Just a few days later, I purchased a shirt piece for Rs 50. He was angry and told me that I should not buy anything. Since then he has bought everything I needed in my life. At home, I would do every kind of work from cooking to cleaning. I was never considered a worker, but treated like just another family member.

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The steel 'Kada' Vishnuvardhan sported on his right hand had become his style statement. His trademark symbolism was to draw back the kada on him right arm using his left hand. The kada was a present made to him by a fan during the shooting of 'Sahasa Simha .' Vishnuvardhan cherished the gift so much that he never removed it. Many of his fans followed this style statement and even today many wear a steel kada.
Spiritualism played an important role in Vishnuvardhan's life. The navarathna chain he used to wear symbolised this more than anything else. While he was not shooting for a film, the navarathna chain would always adorn his neck. Vishnuvardhan would also wear a chain made of rudraksha sometimes. He would say that he wore them on the advise of his 'Guruji.'

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