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From ‘dosa king’ to ‘lecherous murderer’ – A dark profile of Saravana Bhavan’s P Rajagopal


Well-known member
Superstition, money, indecent proposal and a murder most foul. These are not the elements of a filmi thriller but of a real-life murder case that involved India’s ‘dosa king’ P Rajagopal. The septuagenarian maverick behind the world-famous Saravana Bhavan chain of south Indian eateries finally surrendered before a Chennai court on a stretcher on Tuesday.
Rajagopal, called ‘annachi’ (elder brother) by many, built an empire out of seemingly nothing but it was ‘spiritual advice’ and his own loose morality that brought his personal world crumbling down. Son of a farmer, Rajagopal ventured into the restaurant business in the early 80s, a time when the average Indian did not really ‘eat out’.

However, his transformation of the ‘canteen culture’ in south India, became a masterstroke as the middle classes now had a place to ‘treat’ themselves on special occasions. The Saravana Bhavan outlets soon grew exponentially, fuelled by delicious and affordable dosas, idlis and vadas and expanded into global markets like USA, UK, Singapore, Australia and Europe.

Rajagopal became a rich and powerful man who was well known for his ‘benevolence’. There are many stories about him helping his employees with money, medical care and other perks. All the success made him rich and powerful and this is when things came falling down.

It is often said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely and in the case of the ‘dosa king’, he thought himself to be too powerful for anything. The influence of a ‘spiritual godfather’ on Rajagopal was well known and can be literally seen in dozens of his restaurants in the form of framed photographs of him with his ‘guru’ adorning the receptions.
It is one such fateful advice that catered to his lust for women that led Rajagopal to make an indecent proposal to a girl, who was a daughter of his Saravana Bhavan employee and married to a Saravana Bhavan employee as well. An elderly and rich man, the ‘dosa king’ wanted to marry someone else's wife and saw nothing wrong in it. Not even the fact that the girl in question had not given her consent to it all.

Annachi’, ‘dosa king’ and ‘lecherous murderer’ will be the sobriquets P Rajagopal will be remembered as, the last one sticking to his name till he goes to his grave and beyond. All for his lustful obsession with a married woman who wanted nothing to do with him and the power-drunk ego he was cursed with that made him think he was above the law.
How the mighty crumble, indeed!

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Well-known member
Rajagopal who started his eatery business at a loss was sure about two things -- one, no compromise on the quality of the food and two that his workers will be well taken care of.

Saravana Bhavan employees are paid well and they enjoy benefits like pension, free health care, housing loans, a marriage fund for their daughters and magazine subscription among others.

For most employees of Saravana Bhavan, the 72-year-old man is their "annachi" -- elder brother. As the restaurant chain grew, the perks for these employees grew too. And through the highs and lows that Rajagopal has witnessed these employees have stuck with him as loyal as ever.

Star-crossed religious man

Rajagopal is an ardent devotee of Lord Muruga (Shanmuga). It is no surprise then that traditional lamps and huge portraits of Lord Muruga were part of the decor in the Saravana Bhavan restaurants.
He contributed generously to temples, especially to Muruga temples.

I have patronized his restaurant in three continents and loved it.