Prakash Raj is a renowned Indian actor, film director, politician, producer, and television presenter. He received the prestigious National Film Award five times i.e. in 1997, 1998, 2002, 2007, and 2010. He has worked in films of different languages like Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Hindi.
Prakash Raj aka Prakash Rai was born on Friday, 26 March 1965 (age 57 years; as of 2022) in Bangalore, Mysore State, India (present-day Karnataka). His zodiac sign is Aries. He did his schooling at St Joseph’s Boys’ High School, Bengaluru, Karnataka. He did a PUC (Pre-University Course) from St. Joseph’s College of Commerce, Bengaluru, Karnataka, from 1983 to 1985. He then enrolled himself in the same college to pursue BCom, but he left the degree in between (1985-1987) after a feud with his teacher.
Height (approx.): 5′ 9″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Brown
He was born to a Hindu father and a Roman Catholic mother.
Parents & Siblings
His father’s name is Manjunath Rai, and his mother, Swarnalatha Raj, worked as a nurse. He has two siblings out of which his brother Prasad Raj works as an actor.
Wife & Children
In 1994, Prakash Raj got married to the Tamil actress Lalitha Kumari. The couple has two daughters named Meghna and Pooja. Prakash and Lalitha’s third child was a son named Sidhu, who passed away in 2004. Once, Sidhu fell from a table while flying a kite, and he had major head injuries. He was operated on by the doctors, but he started getting fits and could not survive. Within four years of Sidhu’s demise, Prakash and Lalitha got divorced in 2009. In an interview, when Prakash was asked about the divorce, he said,
I live life the way I am and I didn’t want to lie so I sat my daughters down and explained to them why I wanted to divorce even though Lata did not want to let me go. My daughters are both with me and her. My office still runs her home and while I have divorced her, my mother, daughters and friends have not.”
Prakash then dated the Indian dance choreographer Pony Verma aka Rashmi Verma, who is 12 years younger to him. On 24 August 2010, the couple got married. During an interview, he shared how he met Pony Verma, he said,
I met Pony who was choreographing for one of my films. I spoke to my mother and my daughters and said, this is what I want to do, but I wanted Pony to spend time with my daughters. I knew it was her first marriage, though I came with baggage. She also met Lata and my daughters, who said, ‘Cool dad, please go ahead’. Then I went to meet her father and told them that I was divorced. They were shocked initially, but then blessed us. I was going to shoot in Australia for 15 days. She took her father and I took my mother to spend time together, post which we decided to get married.”
The couple has a son named Vedhanth Rai. On 25 August 2021, he got remarried to his second wife, Pony Verma at the request of his son Vedhanth.
Prakash Raj is an atheist. In an interview, he shared that he didn’t have any religion. He said,
I don’t have a religion. My daughters don’t have one. I didn’t want to force anything on them. I wanted them to grow up and decide for themselves, but [they had to be] persons of good values. My wife is Hindu, my mother is Christian. We are very happy at home. Till recently, no one looked at anyone’s religion. Till Aamir Khan said there was intolerance, no one said he was Muslim. …Religion and god should be within us. They have brought it down to the roads.”
He belongs to the Kannadiga community, a Dravidian ethnolinguistic group.
Prakash started his career as a theatre artist and performed in more than 2000 street plays. He is also associated with the K Balachander school of acting. In an interview, he shared the fact how he developed an interest in theatres. He said,
In school, I did plays for the applause. But once I came to theatre, I realised how theatre can be a movement. I didn’t come to theatre to become an actor, I was in search of an identity. All I knew was that I was not comfortable with being an accountant, but I didn’t know that I would reach here.”
He further said,
In college, I was more interested in arranging strikes and forming gangs. Once, during second year of college, one of my professors said, ‘You are wasting your time in college.’ Something hit me and I just walked out of the college for five kms and walked straight into Kalakshetra. For the next six months, I did not tell anyone at home that I was actually not going to college, but was doing theatre rehearsals. I started taking acting seriously.”
In the early 90s, he started his career as an actor with the Kannada TV serial ‘Bisilu Kudure,’ which aired on Kannada Doordarshan.
In 1995, he acted in another Kannada TV serial ‘Guddada Bhootha’ in which he played the lead role.
His debut Tamil TV serial is ‘Kaialavu Manasu’ (1995) as Gururangan.
Some of his other Tamil TV serials are ‘Chinna Chinna Aasaigal’ (1995) and ‘Sahana’ (2003). In 2013, he hosted the Tamil TV quiz show ‘Neengalum Vellalam Oru Kodi.’
After working in theatres and TV serials, Prakash started working in the Kannada films. Initially, he got small roles in the films like ‘Mithileya Seetheyaru’ (1998), ‘Muthina Haara’ (1990), ‘Anukoolakkobba Ganda’ (1990), ‘Keralida Kesari’ (1991), and ‘Mallige Hoove’ (1992). While he was working in the Kannada film ‘Harakeya Kuri’ in 1993, he was introduced by one of his co-actors to the Indian film director K Balachander, who offered Prakash a role in his Tamil film. Some of his other popular Kannada films are ‘Nagamandala’ (1997), ‘Atithi’ (2002), ‘Rajadhani’ (2011), ‘Seizer’ (2018), and ‘K.G.F: Chapter 2’ (2021).
In 1994, he made his Tamil debut with the film ‘Duet’ in which he played the role of Actor Sirpy.
Some of his other Tamil films are ‘Kalki’ (1996), ‘Iruvar’ (1997), ‘Kanchivaram’ (2008), ‘Abhiyum Naanum’ (2008), and ‘Jai Bhim’ (2021).
In 1994, he made his Malayalam film debut with the film ‘Thekkekara Superfast’ as Johnykutty.
He has acted in many Malayalam films like ‘Oru Yathramozhi’ (1997), ‘Pandipada’ (2005), ‘Elektra’ (2010), ‘Odiyan’ (2018), and ‘Pada’ (2022).
He made his Telugu debut with the film ‘Sankalpam’ (1995) in which he played the role of Gaddapalugu Chenchu Ramaiah.
Some of his other Telugu films are ‘Hitler (1997), ‘Rajakumarudu’ (1999), ‘Nuvve Nuvve’ (2002), ‘Tagore’ (2003), ‘Maharshi’ (2019), and ‘Vakeel Saab’ (2021)
Apart from South Indian films, he has also acted in Hindi films. In 2002, he made his Hindi film debut with the film ‘Shakti– The Power’ (2002) in a role of a sharpshooter.
He gained immense popularity with the Hindi like ‘Khakee’ (2004), ‘Shart: The Challenge’ (2004), ‘Wanted’ (2009), ‘Singham’ (2011), ‘Dabangg 2’ (2012), and ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ (2013).
In 1993, he appeared in his first English film i.e. ‘Tropical Heat’ in a role of a police officer.
In 2016, he appeared in English/Hindi film ‘CandyFlip.’
In 2020, he made his Tamil web series debut with the Netflix web series ‘Paava Kadhaigal’ in which he played the role of Janakiraman.
His other Tamil web series are ‘Navarasa’ (2021) and ‘Anantham’ (2022).
In 2020, he acted in his debut Telugu debut web series ‘Shootout at Alair’ as DSP Suryanarayana, streamed on ZEE5.
Producer and Director
Apart from acting, Prakash Raj has also worked as a producer and director under his film production company Prakash Raj Productions. He has produced many Tamil films like ‘Daya’ (2002), ‘Azhagiya Theeye’ (2004), ‘Mozhi’ (2007), ‘Abhiyum Naanum’ (2008), and ‘Mayilu’ (2012).
He made his debut as a producer in Kannada films with ‘Naanu Nanna Kanasu’ (2010) which is also his directorial debut.
He has produced a few other Kannada films like ‘Puttakkana Highway’ (2011), ‘Idolle Ramayana’ (2016), and ‘Arishadvarga’ (2020).
He has also worked as a director-producer in a few Telugu films like ‘Gouravam’ (2013), and ‘Ulavacharu Biriyani’ (2014).
In September 2017, post the assassination of the Indian journalist-turned-activist Gauri Lankesh, Prakash started a political movement with the hashtag #justasking on social media. In an interview, while talking about starting the movement, he said,
#JustAsking is a movement I have started. I want to be with the people. It is my journey, my fight to be, first, an honest, fearless citizen of the country. What it will snowball into I don’t know. But now, I will be airing political views, I will be travelling among people when elections in Karnataka are on, telling people to just ask. I won’t tell them who to vote for but I will tell them who not to vote. That’s my right.”
In 2019, he contested as an independent candidate in the 2019 Indian general election for the Bengaluru Central Lok Sabha constituency. He bagged only 28,831 votes and was defeated by the BJP candidate P.C. Mohan, who won by more than 6 lakh votes. Prakash then tweeted,
A SOLID SLAP on my face ..as More ABUSE..TROLL..and HUMILIATION come my way..I WILL STAND MY GROUND ..My RESOLVE to FIGHT for SECULAR INDIA will continue..A TOUGH JOURNEY AHEAD HAS JUST BEGUN ..THANK YOU EVERYONE WHO WERE WITH ME IN THIS JOURNEY. …. JAI HIND.”
In an interview, when he was asked if he would join any political party. He said,
These parties are not honest. I cannot stay at any party for more than three months. I want to be the voice of the people.”
In 2019, he campaigned in the support of AAP candidate Dilip Pandey at Babarpur, Delhi. While talking to the reporters, Prakash said,
This is what we need, this is my gesture, and my belief, that different people with different thought processes but love for the country come together to make this democracy, to reclaim our republic which is on the verge and that we may lose with the onslaught of communal and hatred politics of the government, which is in place.”
In the same year, he was seen supporting the campaign for the Indian political activist Kanhaiya Kumar.
Prakash is involved in various philanthropy works. He has started two NGOs named Prakash Raj Foundation and Just Asking Foundation. Under the NGOs, he adopted a village named Kondareddypalle in Mahbubnagar District, Telangana, in 2015. He has helped in promoting good education in the government schools of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. He has also helped in upgrading the infrastructure of these schools. Apart from this, his foundation has also helped various organisations like Hasiru Dala for waste pickers’ families, Thamate Centre for Rural empowerment for the families of manual scavengers, Audience Films & FEFSI for daily wage workers’ families of the film industry, Sumangali Seva Ashram, Grama Seva Sangh, Scope Enterprises for supporting fishermen families & other poor families around Kovalam Village, Tamil Nadu.
Banned by the Telugu Film Industry
In 2008, he was banned by the Telugu film industry for his unprofessional attitude. He did not fulfill his commitments so various Telugu production houses and producers came forward to impose a ban on him from working in Telugu films. Later, he was banned five more times from working in Telugu films. In an interview, while talking about the ban, Prakash said,
If people who work with me say that I play hide and seek, why do they repeat me? Why am I in Mahesh’s nine films out of his ten. Why don’t you judge me with my work? How I go about it is not important. I don’t go by the rules. I put my foot down, I don’t take mediocrity. There are certain locations where I can come only at 12 in the morning. I don’t go by the rules.”
Case Filed for Commenting on Prime Minister
In 2017, the Indian journalist-turned activist Gauri Lankesh, who was also a good friend of Prakash was shot dead outside her residence in Raja Rajeshwari Nagar in Bengaluru. At the 11th State meet of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), while talking about Gauri’s murder case, Prakash said,
The prime minister and others were acting as if nothing had happened despite having social media followers celebrating the killing on social media. Who killed my dear friend Gauri is not as important to me today as who has been celebrating her death. There may not be proof as to who killed Gauri but we can see who is celebrating it and from this we can form an idea of who could have killed her. The underlying cruelty in all of this is apparent to many people. Many of those celebrating Gauri’s death are persons followed by the Prime Minister on social media. The PM has been absolutely silent about these people.”
When we see these people going around acting as if nothing has happened, I feel like giving them the five National Awards I have won for acting. Look I am a seasoned actor, can I not see through the acting? Give me some respect. Am I stupid? Are people foolish that they cannot see through all this? Are the youth of today blind? The time has come for Modi to understand this. I saw a video, I couldn’t tell if he was Uttar Pradesh chief minister or a temple priest. Looks like he plays a double role. When I see such talented actors, I feel like giving them all five National Awards that were given to me. Let’s not be afraid of such people. They are not stronger than us. Our weakness is their strength.”
Later a case was filed against him for indirectly accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of Gauri’s murder.
Controversy Over a Dialogue in a Film
In 2011, he received a huge backlash from the people of the Kannadiga community over dialogue in the Hindi film ‘Singham.’ In the film scene, Prakash threatened Ajay Devgn that he would bring 1,000 people from the Karnataka border to thrash him. Ajay (who played Bajirao Singham, a Maratha), responded that one lion would suffice to shoo away a thousand dogs. The Kannadigas felt that the scene was derogatory, and Prakash being a Kannadiga should have objected to the scene. Prakash received a huge backlash from the Kannadigas for not supporting his community. Later, the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC) demanded the deletion of the scene from the film. In an interview, when Prakash was asked to comment on the controversy, he said,
I am a Kannadiga myself and I love my mother tongue Kannada. I’m very proud of my community and would never deliberately do anything to hurt my people. How would I allow conversations that provide pain to people of Karnataka in any movie in which I am cast? There is nothing controversial about the dialogue. I am a Maratha in the movie, the controversy has started just because I am a Kannadiga and I used the word ‘Karnataka border’ in the film because the villain in the film stays in Goa, the Karnataka border.”
Later, the dialogue was removed from the film, and the makers and actors (including Prakash Raj) apologised to Kannadigas.
Insulted the Sentiments of Hindus
In 2018, a complaint was filed by advocate Kiran N against Prakash at the Hanumantha Nagar Police Station, Bengaluru, Karnataka, for passing hurting comments against Hindus. The complaint was filed after his comments in an interview, in which he said,
You do not know about cows. You know about cow urine. If you want to wash your clothes, you need 1 kg cow dung and 2 litres of cow urine. You then need to mix all of this and wash your clothes. Why because, except for cow urine, you do not know anything else. So, do not give us this story.”
Advocate Kiran N said,
Raj made unfair comments on the cow and its excretions which is defamatory against the Hindu community. By depicting it as detergents or washing agents, with malafide intention and ulterior motive to insult the religious feelings of the complainant as well as the entire followers of Hinduism.”
Charges Under the Indian Penal Code
On 20 Dec 2018, he was charged under various IPC sections including:
- IPC Section-143 for being a member of an unlawful assembly
- IPC Section-147 for rioting
- IPC Section-188 for disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant
- IPC Section-341 for wrongful restraint
- IPC Section-149 for unlawful assembly guilty of an offence committed in prosecution of common object
Slammed for Comparing ‘Ram-Leela’ with Child Porn
In 2019, he received huge criticism from the public for passing irrelevant comments on Ram Leela. A video of his interview went viral in 2019, in which he was seen saying,
I do not want events like Ram-Leela, where models who act as the mythological characters are brought on helicopters and people worship these, happening in the country.”
He further said to the reporter,
Will you “leave it” if children watch child porn. “It is dangerous for the society.”
In reply, when the reporter asked how he could make the comparison between Ram Leela and child porn, Prakash said,
It is dangerous. Ram-Leela instill fear in the minds of people belonging to minority communities. I understand people going to a temple for worship, but what is this natak (Ram-Leela). I understand them going to a temple, there is a idol. That is our culture. In full public view, why are you doing this natak (drama).”
Fued with Pawan Kalyan
In 2020, while talking to the reporters, Prakash called Indian actor and politician Pawan Kalyan a “chameleon.” The incident happened when Prakash was talking to a reporter on Telugu news channel TV9. The reporter asked him to comment on Pawan Kalyan’s political moves. Prakash Raj said,
I really don’t understand what happened to him, I’m very disappointed. You (Pawan Kalyan) are a leader by yourself, you have a party (Jana Sena), I wonder why you are looking up/pointing at another leader. If he is changing three-four times, isn’t he a chameleon (Oosaravelli)?.”
National Film Awards
- 1997: Best Supporting Actor for the Tamil film Iruvar
- 1998: Special Mention for the Telugu film Anthapuram
- 2002: Special Jury Award for the Tamil film Dhaya
- 2007: Best Actor for the Tamil film Kanchivaram
- 2010: Best Feature Film in Kannada (as producer) for the film Puttakkana Highway
Filmfare Awards South
- 2002: Best Supporting Actor for the Telugu film Nuvve Nuvve
- 2003: Best Supporting Actor for the Telugu film Tagore
- 2004: Best Villain for the Tamil film Ghilli
- 2005: Best Villain for the Tamil film Sivakasi
- 2009: Best Actor for the Tamil film Kanchivaram
International Indian Film Academy Awards
- 2012: Best Performance in a Negative Role for the Hindi film Singham
International Tamil Film Awards
- 2003: Best Supporting Actor for the Tamil film Kannathil Muthamittal
- 1996: Best Villain for the Telugu film Gunshot
- 1998: Best Character Actor for the Telugu film Anthahpuram
- 2000: Best Character Actor for the Telugu film Azad
- 2002: Best Supporting Actor for the Telugu film Khadgam
- 2003: Best Character Actor for the Telugu film Amma Nanna O Tamila Ammayi
- 2003: Best Villain for the Telugu film Gangotri
- 2006: Best Supporting Actor for the Telugu film Bommarillu
- 2011: Best Supporting Actor for the Telugu film Dookudu
Tamil Nadu State Film Awards
- 1996: Best Villain for the Tamil film Kalki
- 2000: Best Villain for the Tamil film Vaanavil
- 2009: Best Film – Second Prize for the Tamil film Mozhi
- 2017: Best Villain for the Tamil film Villu
- 2017: Best Film – Third Prize for the Tamil film Dhoni
- 2006: Best Villain for the Tamil film Sivakasi
- 2007: Best Supporting Actor for the Tamil film Mozhi
- 2009: Best Actor for the Tamil film Kanchivaram
- 2003: Best Supporting Actor for the Telugu film Khadgam
- 2004: Best Supporting Actor for the Telugu film Amma Nanna O Tamila Ammayi
- 2012: Best Supporting Actor for the Telugu film Dookudu
South Indian International Movie Awards
- 2012: Best Supporting Actor for the Telugu film Dookudu
- 2015: Best Actor in a Supporting Role for the Tamil film O Kadhal Kanmani
- 2016: Best Actor in a Supporting Role for the Tamil film Manithan
- 2018: Best Actor in a Supporting Role for the Tamil film 60 Vayadu Maaniram
Note: He has many more accolades to his name.
His income was Rs 2,40,37,797 (approx.) in the financial year 2018-2019.
- Deposits in Banks, Financial Institutions, and Non-Banking Financial Companies: Rs 6,08,000
- Bonds, Debentures, and Shares in companies: Rs 1,68,53,142
- Personal loans/advance given: Rs 1,23,39,974
- Motor Vehicles: Rs 1,88,29,236
- Other assets, such as values of claims/interests: Rs 7,53,000
Gross Total: Rs 5,18,63,352
- Agricultural Land: Rs 14,72,93,300
- Non-Agricultural Land: Rs 5,00,00,000
- Commercial Buildings: Rs 35,00,000
- Residential Buildings: Rs 6,86,16,616
Gross Total: Rs 26,94,09,916
- Mahindra Thar
- In childhood, Prakash Raj faced various financial difficulties. His father was an alcoholic and never supported his family.
- At the suggestion of the Indian film director K Balachander, Prakash changed his name from Prasad Rai to Prasad Raj. In an interview, he shared the story behind it. He said,
Director K Balachander changed it. Apart from launching Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, he was also responsible for launching me. He had changed Rajinikanth’s name and felt that at a time when the Cauvery dispute was hot between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the surname Rai represented just a local community and a state, but he saw a national actor in me and wanted my name to represent that.”
- While he was working as a stage play artist, he used to get Rs 300 per month.
- He is well versed in various languages like Kannada, Tamil, Tulu, Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi and English.
- Prakash owns a zero-pesticide organic farm in Hyderabad.
- He is often spotted drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes.
- In his leisure time, he loves to read books and spend time with his family.
- He has featured in various TV commercials like Netmeds, Hero Splendor, and First Klass Refined Palmolein Oil.
- Prakash Raj follows a non-vegetarian diet.
- In 2013, he went nude for a scene in the Telugu film ‘Ongole Gitta.’ The film received an ‘A’ certificate rating because of the scene. In an interview, while talking about the scene, Prakash Raj said,
I did not shed my clothes for creating sensation, I had no plans to star in that sequence. The script demanded it; as an actor, I have to abide by the script. Director Bhaskar told me that it would be an ‘important’ sequence in the context of the film and I just carried out his instructions.”
- In 2016, Prakash Raj started a vegetable mobile bazaar at Chitrapuri Colony, Manikonda, Hyderabad with the name Prakash Raj Veg Mantra.
- In one of the scenes of the 2021 Tamil film ‘Jai Bhim,’ Prakash was seen slapping a man for speaking in Hindi which was not taken well by some people. In an interview, when Prakash was asked to comment on the scene, he said,
After watching a film like Jai Bhim, they did not see the agony of the tribal people, they did not see and feel terrible about the injustice, they saw only the slap. That is all they understood; this exposes their agenda. That said, certain things have to be documented.”
For example, the anger of South Indians on Hindi being forced on them. How else will a police officer who is investigating a case react when he knows that a person who knows the local language chooses to speak in Hindi to dodge questioning? That has to be documented, right? The film is set in the 1990s. If that character had Hindi imposed on him, he would have reacted this way only. Probably if it came across as more intense, it is also because that is my thought too, and I stand by that thought.”
- Prakash Raj is often seen slamming Prime Minister Narendra Modi through his Instagram posts.