Popularly known as Rebel Star, Mandyada Gandu and Mysuru Jaana, M H Amarnath fondly referred Ambareesh had a special affiliation for Mysuru region, especially Mysuru, Mandya and Ramanagara districts.
The letter ‘M’ in his initials stood for Mysuru, while ‘H’ meant Hucchegowda, his father, a doctor. His maternal grandfather T Chowdaiah or Pitilu Chowdaiah was a legendary musician. Even though Ambareesh’s father Dr Hucchegowda was a native of Doddarsinakere in Maddur taluk of Mandya district, he was born and brought up in Mysuru city. His house was near the Thengina Thopu in Saraswathipurm, in the city.
While his siblings and cousins were good in studies, he showed an inclination towards art and entertainment. He did his schooling in the now century-old Lakshmipuram Government School and joined Sarada Vilas College for PUC. Later, he discontinued education and was in search of a career. In college, he would actively take part in cultural programmes and emerged as a student leader. Director S V Rajendra Singh Babu, son of legendary film-maker Shankar Singh of Mysuru-based Navajyothi Studio, introduced Ambarish to director Puttanna Kanagal. Puttanna cast a reluctant Ambareesh in his milestone film ‘Nagarahavu’, in which Vishnuvardhan was the hero.
It has to be noted that Rajnikant was supposed to do the role of Jaleel, which shot Ambareesh to fame in ‘Nagarahavu’. In the later stages of life, both Vishnuvardhan and Rajnikant became his friends for life. Both Rajendra Singh Babu and his late brother Sangram Singh were Ambareesh’s close friends. Till his marriage with actor Sumalatha, Ambareesh would spend his free time with friends at his Mysuru house in Saraswathipuram. He encouraged actors, directors and producers from Mysuru and Mandya. Sandesh Nagaraj, Pavithra Lokesh and Darshan owe their career to Ambareesh. He was introduced to politics by JD(S) supremo H D Deve Gowda. He was inducted into the Janata Dal, but, he later joined the Congress under the leadership of former Chief Minister S M Krishna. His political debut was in Ramanagara byelection in 1997, but he lost to C M Lingappa of the Congress. Later, he won from Mandya Lok Sabha constituency in the 1998 general election.
He was reelected as MP from Mandya in 1999 and 2004 on a Congress ticket. During his last term as MP, he was made Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting. But, he resigned in 2007, citing injustice to the people of Karnataka in the Cauvery River water sharing dispute He entered state politics and was defeated in the 2008 Assembly poll from Srirangapatna constituency. He lost the 2009 Lok Sabha polls too. But, was elected from Mandya Assembly constituency in 2013.
Then, he inducted into Siddaramaiah government as Housing Minister. However, he was unceremoniously dropped from the Cabinet in mid-2016. Since being dropped from the Cabinet, Ambareesh started to withdraw from politics. He did not contest the last Assembly polls, even though he was offered a Congress ticket for Mandya. After undergoing treatment in Singapore in 2013, he showed signs of being health conscious.
He did not campaign for the Congress candidates in the last Assembly poll and bypolls. After a long gap, he acted in the film ‘Ambi Ninge Vayasaytho’, a remake of Tamil film ‘Pa Paandi’. He was busy in moulding his son’s film career over the past few months.