One of the earliest Kannada actors would be M.P. Shankar. He has appeared in classic films like Satya Harishchandra, Bhootayyana Maga Ayyu, Ratnamanjari and others. This Kannada actor wooed the audiences with his echoing voice, handsome looks and perfect histrionic skills. Later he turned to direction and was a successful one. He has made several films with Dr. Rajkumar. Most of his films carried social messages. M.P. Shankar, Kannada actor turned director, passed away in 2008.
The first Kannada actor that that comes to the mind while discussing about the Kannada films is Dr. Rajkumar. He was one of the most prolific actors who took the Kannada film industry to dizzying heights. His fans would refer to him as Natasarvabhouma (Emperor of actors) or Annavru (Big Brother). He has acted in more than 200 films. Although the Kannada actor started his career with the theatre he later made his forays into films. A multitalented man, Rajkumar was also a famous playback singer. His debut film was Bedara Kannappa (1954). In a career that spans over a decade this brilliant Kannada actor has played a variety of roles ranging from mythological characters to comic roles; from romantic characters to action hero. The Kannada actor was bestowed with several awards in his lifetime in recognition of his contribution to the Kannada film industry
Another Kannada actor who took the silver screen by storm is Vishnuvardhan. He was born as Sampath Kumar but the director Puttanna Kanagal christened him as Vishnuvardhan, a name of a famous king. Some of his memorable films are Naagarahaavu, Hombisilu, Sahasa Simha Bandhana, Naagara Hole, Muthina Haara, Nishkarsha, Yajamana, Bhootayyana Maga Ayyu and Apthamitra. In the past 27 years he has acted in 197 films. It is said that his fans are eagerly awaiting his 200th film. Vishnuvardhan has bagged several awards at the state and national levels for his acting skills.
Chaaru Haasan is an award winning Kannada actor. He is the brother of another South Indian actor, Kamal Hassan. Chaaru Haasan was felicitated with the Karnataka Government's Best Actor Award for the movie Tabarana Kathe (1987), directed by Girish Kasaravalli.
Amongst the talented Kannada actors one can never leave out Anant Nag. This Kannada actor has successfully explored both the commercial and art films. He was almost a regular in Shyam Benegal's films. Of course who can forget Surya in Benegal's Ankur! Anant Nag has acted in Tamil, Marathi and Telugu films. Today he is actively into politics but the Kannada actor still finds time to be part of the films. His brother Shankar Nag was also a Kannada actor.
After Dr. Rajkumar his sons have carried on with his legacy. His sons, Shivrajkumar, Raghavendra Rajkumar and Puneet Rajkumar, are stars in their own rights. While the latter is comparatively new to the industry his elder son, Shivrajkumar, has been in the profession for the last 27 years. His popular films are Anand, Rathasapthami, Om, Janumada Jodi, Nammura Mandara Hoove, AK 47, Preethse, Jogi and others. Raghavendra, too, has been part of popular Kannada films and later moved on to production. Puneet Rajkumar was a child actor but he started his career as the lead man in 2002 with Appu. The film was a super hit. In the contemporary Kannada film industry he is one of the most promising Kannada actors.
Other popular Kannada actors are Kashinath, Upendra, Aravind, Srinath, CR Simha, Vijay and others.