A month after Puneeth Rajkumar passed away, elder brother Shivarajkumar shares that he still cannot believe that his little brother isn’t around. On October 29, Sandalwood lost one of its most iconic actors. Known for his genial personality, generous spirit, humility and a smile that never left his face, Power Star Puneeth Rajkumar, 47, who succumbed to a card left behind a legion of fans and a void that admirers say can never be filled. The family has been quietly grieving, still trying to come to grips with the loss. “Our main concern is Ashwini (wife of Puneeth Rajkumar) and the kids (his two daughters – Drithi and Vanditha). At the same time, I’m also struggling to face reality. Somehow, I can’t come to terms with the fact that he’s not around anymore. I feel like he’ll walk in through the door saying “Shivanna” at any moment. It’s been especially hard because when I step out of the house and go on the streets, I see his banners and posters offering shraddhanjali everywhere. That’s when it hits me and I just turn my face away. I don’t want to look at them. It brings such a lump in my throat. The only balm to my wounded soul is when I think of all the wonderful times we had.”

“Appu was an adorable child…13 years younger to me, so he was like my own son.”
The formative years of Puneeth were spent in Chennai as the family was based there before moving to Bengaluru. As the youngest child, he was much adored by all of us. He was such a happy-go-lucky child and with a 13-year gap between us, Appu felt like my own son. As a child, he was so spontaneous with his expressions and emotions and had even acted in a few films. He was 11 when I debuted in films and I remember him going out with our watchman to eat at the neighbouring joints. He loved trying out new kinds of food and it was a trait he carried until now. Our family was a large one and we spent such happy moments with our siblings and cousins. All of us doted on him. Always happy, always smiling…even now people remember him for it. That smile never left him.

“Growing up, the bond between us strengthened and we were as thick as thieves”
The three brothers, Shivanna, Raghanna and Puneeth are known for their unshakeable bond and were often hailed for the unity they displayed no matter how adverse the circumstances. “I was the mischief monger always getting into trouble with my folks, Raghanna was the mama’s boy and Appu, the pet of the family. Appu would come on the sets of my films in his later years and would be a keen observer. We had always known that he had this creative spark in him and would make it big. I think our father’s blessings has always been on each one of us. The way he said “Shivanna” each time, would be so touching. We loved family get-togethers and parties and Appu and I would be the first to hit the dance floor. We loved karaoke nights. Appu’s favourite song was “Main Shayar Toh Nahin” and he would always sing it at every karaoke night we had. I recently sung it as an ode to Appu and it made me feel he’s still around. Our bond has strengthened with each passing year and we were always as thick as thieves. People ask that when we are in the same field, isn’t there any sibling rivalry between us? I find that strange. That thought has never struck any of us brothers. We always wished the best for each other. In fact, even on the day of his demise, Appu wanted to watch my film Bhajrangi 2 that had just released that morning. He congratulated me on the movie and had even told his boys to load it on his home theatre to watch it later that evening. Unfortunately, that was not meant to be. But that’s how we brothers are — always wishing the best for each other. Where then is the scope for jealousy?

“I don’t think this is a wound that time can heal…it’s something we just have to learn to live with”

Shivanna gets a tad philosophical when he tells us about some of the things he’s learnt in life. “Apparently, there’s this saying that time heals. I don’t think so. Especially when it comes to grief. You just learn to live with it. Like how I’m trying to cope with the loss of my brother. I am happy though that he lived the best life until his last day. We even danced together at the press meet of Bhajrangi 2, just three days before his demise. People ask me about that day and I tell them that is probably what life is. Uncertain. Even now, I try to go about things as normally as I can. Shooting and exercising helps to keep my mind away from reality. I want to continue doing good to society just like appaji, my mother and Appu have been doing. It’s the least we can do to a society that has given us so much. Appu may not be with us in flesh. But he continues to be remembered. Everyone gets a second chance. Sometimes I ask God, why he didn’t give our Appu the same? I will always carry Appu in my heart until my last breath,” sums up Shivanna.