Doyen of Telugu cinema Nageswara Rao mesmerised audiences with memorable performances in many hits and became popular as the tragic hero for his performance in Devadas.
The thespian of the Telugu cinema, who received the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke award in 1991, died at a private hospital in Hyderabad where he was undergoing treatment.
Though Rao withdrew from his acting career in the 90s, he performed occasionally in select movies. His son Akkineni is a Telugu cinema superstar, while grandson Naga Chaitanya made his film debut recently. The family was eagerly awaiting the release of Telugu film Manam, which features all three generations of actors.
A Dada Saheb Phalke award winner, the 91-year-old acted in more than 250 films, including a few in Tamil.
From a poor farmer's son to one of the most loved and respected actors of Indian cinema, Akkineni Nageswara Rao's journey, which lasted over seven decades, could very well make an interesting story of a film.
Nageswara Rao, who as a youngster walked bare foot in Gudivada in Krishna district of coastal Andhra, rose to the dizzy heights of stardom and became a symbol of the Telugu film industry, or Tollywood as it is popularly called sometimes. ANR was the last of the most popular first generation actors of Telugu cinema and was considered one of the two all-time greats of Telugu cinema, the other being actor turend cheif minister of Andhra Pradesh N.T. Rama Rao (NTR) who died in 1996.
ANR ruled the Telugu industry between 1950 and 1985. Rao started his career as an actor in theatre when he was just nine. In the initial years of his career, he even played female characters. Despite strong criticism, Rao acted in 'Devadasu', only to be catapulted to the status of Telugu cinema's first romantic hero. The strong criticism made him all the more eager to prove himself with the film. "I still consider 'Batasari' as one of my finest performances in my career. There was only one page of dialogue in the whole picture and the role demanded maximum use of expressions," he had told us in the interview.
ANR, who worked in about 250 movies, was born into a poor family in Ramapuram of Krishna district in 1923. He went to Chennai in search of livelihood, and his good looks earned him a role in a Telugu movie at the age of 17 years. However, luck did not favour him and he left for Vijayawada, where he was spotted by a well-known film producer. Then, he won a lead role in the mythological movie Seeta Rama Jananam (1941). The film was a hit and ANR never turned back. hough he acted in several mythological movies, ANR went on to acquire the status of 'romantic icon'.
Mostly remembered for his romantic roles in 'Laila Majnu', 'Anarkali' and 'Prem Nagar', Rao also starred and proved his mettle with several mythological characters in 'Mayabazar', 'Mahakavi Kalidasu' and 'Bhakta Tukaram', 'Sri Ramadasu' and 'Sri Rama Rajyam'.
In 1966 Telugu drama 'Navaratri', Rao essayed nine different roles and earned critical acclaim for his performance. The film was later remade in Hindi as 'Naya Din Nayi Raat' with Sanjeev Kumar.
In his 74-year long illustrious career, he starred in about 235 Telugu films, besides 20 Tamil and one Hindi. Some of his best Tamil films include 'Anbumagan', 'Kanal Neer' and 'Pen Manam'.
The veteran, who studied only up to fifth standard, also set up a film school as he believed in the philosophy of giving back to the society.Although he was enjoying a successful career in Tamil industry too, Rao shifted base to Hyderabad to ensure longevity in Telugu filmdom.
He was instrumental in setting up one of the biggest studios in India. Named after his late wife, Annapurna Studios will remain the thespian's biggest gift to Indian cinema.
Nageswara Rao had a lively chat with family members last night and passed away in his sleep, the legendary actor's son Nagarjuna, a popular hero, said.
Nageswara Rao called a press conference in October last year to announce that he was diagnosed with cancer. He refused to take questions, saying he doesn't want any sympathy. Claiming that he has strong will, he said wanted to live up to 100 years with the good wishes of his fans. The destiny willed otherwise.
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday condoled the death of Telugu cinema icon Akkineni Nageswara Rao.
Nageswara Rao is one of pillars-founders of modern Telugu cinema and growth of Telugu film industry owes much to him.