Dr. HC Vishnuvardhan was born on September 18, 1950 in Mysore, Karnataka. He was son of late Sri. HL Narayana Rao and late Smt. Kamakshamma. His real name was Sampathkumar, but he was christened Vishnuvardhan by director Puttanna Kanagal in 1973. He had his primary education at Gopalswamy School in Mysore and his middle school in Bangalore's Kannada Madari School. He undertook High School and his degree in the National College, Basavanagudi, Bangalore.
Vishnu"s father HL Narayana Rao was an artiste as well as scriptwriter and was known for his collection of musical instruments and being a dancing teacher. One of Vishnu's sisters, Smt. Rama Ramachandra, was a Kathak dancer and she was praised by the then King of Mysore, Sri Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar. Dr. Vishnu married to actress Bharathi on 27 February 1975 at Kuchalamba Kalyana Mantapa in Bangalore. He had 2 adopted daughters Keerthi and Chandana.
The Kannada actor started his career with Girish Karnad directed movie Vamsha Vruksha in 1972. But he came to lime light with movie Nagara Haavu, which was directed by Puttanna Kanagal in 1973. Then onwards, he rocked Kannada film industry for four decades with 198 movies. Some of his all-time hits are Nagara Haavu, Muthina Haara, Hombisilu, Sahasa Simha, Bandhana, Naagara Hole, Nishkarsha, Yajamana, Bhootayyana Maga Ayyu and Apthamitra. Two of his movies like Aatha Rakshaka and School Master are yet to release.
The Yajamana star had acted with south Indian superstars like Dr. Rajkumar, Rajinikanth, Sivaji Ganesan and Mammootty. He had starred in four Tamil films like Alaigal, Mazhalai Pattaalam, Viduthalai and Sri Raghavendra, a Malayalam Film Kauravar and three Bollywood films Inspector Dhanush, Ashaanth, Zaalim. He had also acted in an episode of TV serial 'Malgudi Days' Episode 18 - 'Forty-Five a Month', directed by Shankar Nag.
Dr. Vishnu was popularly regarded as the most versatile, talented, stylish and popular actor in the Kannada film industry. His role in romantic, action, emotional, music, comedy or family dramas have been widely popular. He was known as Sahasa Simha, which means a valorous lion. While shooting for Muthina Haara movie, Vishnu performed a dangerous parachute dive without a double and missed death by a whisker.
Besides being an actor, Vishnu was also a popular singer and he had first rendered his voice for a song in the movie Nagara Hole. Later, he sang devotional songs for albums. Some of his albums are 'Jyothiroopa Ayappa', 'Thayi Bhanashankari' and 'Vishwapremi Ayappa'. He also sang devotional songs on Dharmastala's Lord Manjunathaswamy, Malemadeshwara and Ranachandi Chamundi. Some of his popular songs for movies are Hegiddharu Neene Chenna (Sahasa Simha), Shashiya Kandu Moda Helithu (Sirithanakke Savaal), Thuthu Anna Thinnoke (Jimmi Gallu), Beda Annoro Unte, (Sididedda Sahodara) and Kannadave Nammamma (Mojugara Sogusugara).
He was honoured with many awards for his performance in movies. His awards include 6 south Indian Filmfare, 7 State Awards for his acting, a Filmfare for lifetime achievement and Dr. Rajkumar Award 2009. He had also got Honorary Doctorate from Bangalore University. His fans and friends were expecting Government to honour him with awards like Padmashri and Padmabhushan too, but this hope did not come true when he was alive.
However, Dr. Vishnuvardhan was suffering from some health hazards for the past five years and recently he had been to Mysore for rest. He was admitted to Vikram Hospital Mysore on 29th December 2009 when he complained of severe chest pain. He died of heart attack at 2.30 on 30th December 2009.
The Aptamitra star loved his fans very much and held them very high in his heart. Once during the shooting of the film Sahasa Simha, one of his fans presented him with a bracelet (Kadaga) and stated that it would bring him good luck. Innocent Vishnu never took it off from his wrist till his last breathe.
As a human being, Vishnuvardhan was an extremely decent man, who never turned down anyone who needed help. He was a peace loving person and he never loved going out. During his last part of life, he was growing more interested in spirituality. Many of his friends say that he used to sit at home and read books on spirituality and psychology.
After late Dr. Rajkumar, Vishnu was the next person in Kannada films to have a big fan following. The Aptamitra's death is unbearable and irreplaceable loss to the Kannada film industry. Nobody can bring him back. But we can keep his soul alive by following his simple and peaceful way of life.
So let us celebrate Vishnuvardhan"s life, don"t mourn his death.