The doyen of Telugu film industry Dr. Akkineni Nageswara Rao created a history through the actor's 75 years old career comprised of 256 films across social, romantic and mythological generis. The legendary film actor Dr. Akkineni Nageswara Rao stole the hearts of millions of fans across the world. He is a role model for Indian Youth and upcoming young artists in India and abroad. His impeccable character, discipline, hard work and commitment for human and ethical values made him a towering personality in Indian society. Dr. Akkineni Nageswara Rao mesmerized the audiences with memorable performances in hit films like Batasari, Devadas and Tenali Ramkrishna. Dr. Akkineni Nageswara Rao was of the black and white era known for his strong will power and positive attitude. The 91 year old legendary figure in Indian Cinema passed away due to cancer in Hyderabad on 22 January, 2014. Dr. Akkineni Nageswara Rao popularly known as "Ever Green Hero ANR" is survived by three daughters and two sons including film actor Nagarjuna and several grand children. His grandchild Naga Chaitanya is also a cinema artist. Akkineni Nageswara Rao was the youngest of five brothers born into a poor family on 20 September 1923 at Raghavapuram, Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh. His parents, Akkineni Venkatratnam and Akkineni Punnamma, were from the farming community. His formal education was limited to primary schooling due to his parents' poor economic condition.
It was in 1941, at the age of 17, that he made his entry into the Telugu film, Dharmapatni, in which he played the role of the protagonist's friend. ANR, as he's fondly referred to, was discovered by chance at the Vijayawada railway station by the noted film producer, Ghantasala Balaramaiah, a popular film producer of that time, and was immediately offered the lead role of Lord Rama in his upcoming movie Seeta Rama Jananam. He predominantly acted in theater, many times donning female roles since women weren't allowed on stage at that time. He has since acted in over 256 films, spanning the Telugu, Tamil and Hindi languages and became the most prominent figures in the history of Telugu cinema. Majority of his films were both commercial and critical successes.
ANR played a variety of roles ranging from a charming prince to a frustrated alcoholic lover, from a valiant soldier to a holy saint, and from a college student to a composed government official. He excelled in mythological roles too as Abhimanyu in Maya Bazaar, as Lord Vishnu in Chenchu Lakshmi; as Narada in Bhookailash; and Arjuna in Sri Krishnarjuna Yuddham. In rural oriented films like Balaraju, Rojulu Maraayi, and Namminabantu, he attained the status of Telugu cinema's first superstar. He also made a striking mark in comedy films like Missamma, Chakrapani, and Preminchi Choodu. ANR is fondly called the "Tragedy King" of Telugu cinema, through his milestone performances in romantic dramas such as Laila Majnu, Anarkali, Batasari, Prem Nagar, Premabhishekam, and Meghasandesham.
The film Premabhishekam directed by Dasari Narayana Rao is one of the biggest hits in Tollywood. It had an amazing 533 days run in Hyderabad City, which is still the highest run in a city for any Telugu movie. Premabhishekam is the only Telugu film to have run for more than one year continuously. He was the first to perform a double role in Telugu films, and even played nine roles in the film Navarathri. ANR's portrayal of an alcoholic jilted lover in Devadasu by eminent writer Sarath Chandra's was reprised by many in later years in several different languages, the famous Hindi actor Dilip Kumar said that "there is only one Devadasu, and that is Nageswara Rao." Most of ANR's social films like Samsaram, Bratuku Teruvu, Aradhana, Donga Ramudu, Dr. Chakravarthi, Ardhaangi, Mangalya Balam, Illarikam, Shantinivasam, Velugu Needalu, Dasara Bullodu, Bharya Bhartalu, Dharmadata, Batasari, and College Bullodu were commercially successful films. Sitaramayyagari Manavaralu was released in 1991, exactly 50 years after his debut, and was a huge success at the box office, despite the influx of newer and younger stars. A unique feature that won ANR acclaim from critics and art lovers was that he enacted the roles of literary and cultural icons of different regions in India, thereby making them instruments of national integration - as the great Sanskrit poet, Mahakavi Kalidas of Ujjain; as the celebrated musician saint, Bhakta Jayadeva of Odisha; as the temple sculptor, Amarasilpi Jakkanna of Karnataka; as the devotee saint, Vipranarayana of Tamil Nadu; and as the singer Bhakta Tukaram of Maharashtra. Manam was the last film of Akkineni Nageswara Rao, where he shared screen space with his son Nagarjuna and grandson Naga Chaitanya.
Akkineni Nageswara Rao was a prominent Telugu film actor and producer, among other things, he is also credited for influencing Telugu film producers and creating a base for Telugu films in Hyderabad. The Telugu film industry, in its early days, was based in Madras (now Chennai) in Tamil Nadu. The new state of Andhra Pradesh was carved out from the Madras Presidency on 1 November 1956 and several leaders opined that in order to create a separate identity for the Telugu film industry; it had to be based in Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh. ANR was one of the first actors of that period who insisted on moving the Telugu film center from Chennai to Hyderabad. He established his own 22 acre production studio/house, named Annapurna Studios after his wife, in the heart of Hyderabad, to facilitate this.
In 1957, he donated a considerable sum of money to the Andhra University. He was the Chief Donor and President of a College at Gudivada in Andhra Pradesh, which was subsequently named after him. Being a strong advocate of education, he created scholarships in the Universities of Andhra, Madras, Sri Venkateswara, and Osmania. Apart from being a Life Member of the Andhra University, he was also adviser to its Department of Dramatics and Theatre Arts. Apart from being a movie star, ANR was a prolific writer. Some of his prominent books being are his autobiographical work, Nenu Na Jeevitham, the memoirs of his first visit to the USA, Nenu Choosina America, and the expression of his thoughts in his book, A Aalu. His most recent, contemplative, self-reflective work is the book Manasuloni Maata. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from several Indian universities.
ANR was invited as a guest of the State by USA, Russia, UK, France, Germany, Denmark, Malaysia, and Japan. He toured all these countries as a cultural ambassador representing India. He visited Australia in 1967, leading a delegation representing the Indian film, Anthasthulu. He also served as a Director on the Board of the National Film Development Corporation of India. The farm boy, who never imagined that he would cross the borders of his village or district, toured all over the world as an Indian ambassador of art and culture. He was also invited as a State Guest by the United States of America, England, France and Germany in 1964 and the USSR in 1972 besides some other countries in the West to study Film Craft and Theatre Arts in the respective countries. The people felicitated Dr. Akkineni with love and honour across the globe.
His contribution to Indian Film Industry was recognised by the Government of India and he was conferred Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan and Dada Saheb Falke Award. Dr Nageswara Rao was also honoured with Nandi Awards for best actor in Meghasandesam and Bangaru Kutumbam, he won Raghupathi Venkaiah Award and NTR National Award. Madhya Pradesh state Government conferred prestigious Kalidasa Award to Nageswara Rao. Tamil Nadu presented Kalaimamani award. Telugu Association of North America(TANA) of USA presented him Lifetime achievement award in 2012. At the age of 91, this legendry film actor was suffering from intestinal cancer and died on 22nd January 2014.