Rajnikanth, on the occasion of his Dadasaheb Phalke Award function , was all praises for his old friend from Bangalore, ‘My friend in Karnataka, bus transport driver, my colleague – Raj Bahadur. When I was the bus conductor, he identified the acting talent in me and encouraged me to join the cinema.’ So who is Raj Bahadur?
76-year-old P Raj Bahudur, a retired Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) driver and a resident of Chamarajpet, is one of the few who appreciated and encouraged him in the early days and pushed him to join the film industry. Raj Bahudur worked for Bangalore Transport Service (BTC) before it became a corporation, and Rajinikanth was a conductor.
After Rajinikanth received the award, a happy Raj Bahudur was packing his bags to travel to Chennai to meet his friend. ‘It was not necessary for him to take my name while he was receiving the prestigious award. It shows his integrity, humbleness and the fact that he did not forget his journey. He never forgets his friends as they were the one who encouraged him. Even if he meets his relatives, he makes it a point to meet his friends whenever he comes to Bengaluru,’ Raj Bahadur told the media.
Asked about his friendship with Rajinikanth, Raj Bahudur recalled meeting Shivaji Rao Gaekwad (Rajinikanth) in 1970, when he joined as a conductor. Raj Bahadur began working as a driver. He said, ‘Although he was a conductor like many others, he definitely had a spark. We used to watch him act in dramas organised by the employee’s association where he would always play the main role. He was really exceptional in acting. But he never dreamt of being an actor. Once, I told him that he has all the talent and ability to be an actor in movies. He was not interested in entering movies but I pushed him. Eventually, he was sent to Chennai for training in Madras Film Institute.’
‘In one of the programmes, Rajini acted in a drama and legendary Tamil director K Balachander was the chief guest,’ Raj Bahadur said. ‘Rajini came to Bengaluru and told me that Balachander asked him to learn Tamil but did not say anything else. I told him, if such a big director has said it there is something ahead. As I know Tamil, from then onwards, we decided to speak only in Tamil. In the next two months, Rajinikanth was able to speak Tamil fluently,’ he said.
When Rajini met the director next time, Balachander told him that he had a role, but that since he doesn’t know Tamil, he could not be cast. When Rajini replied to Balachander in Tamil, he said he understood the language, and Balachander was astonished that he had learned the language in just two months. In 1975, he received the role in Apoorva Raagangal. The rest is history, Raj Bahadur said.
Raj Bahudur retired from BMTC in 2005, but the friendship between the two has never changed. In all these decades, Raj Bahudur said, the love and affection between Rajinikanth and him have remained the same. Raj Bahudur left for Chennai on Wednesday to meet his friend.