Akkineni Nageswara Rao
Akkineni Nageswara Rao
|Died||22 January 2014 (aged 90)|
|Children||5, including Nagarjuna|
Akkineni Nageswara Rao (20 September 1923 – 22 January 2014), widely known as ANR, was an Indian actor and producer, known for his work predominantly in Telugu cinema. He starred in many landmark films in his seventy five-year career, becoming one of the most prominent figures in the history of Indian cinema. He is considered as one of the two pillars of Telugu Cinema along with N. T. Rama Rao. Nageswara Rao received seven state Nandi Awards, and five Filmfare Awards South. He is a recipient of the Dada Saheb Phalke Award, the highest Indian award in the field of cinema. He was also honoured with the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian award, for his contribution to the film industry.
Rao is known for his path-breaking work in biographical films; He essayed the Tamil saint Thondaradippodi Alvar in the 1954 film Vipra Narayana; Tenali Rama in the 1956 film Tenali Ramakrishna, which received the All India Certificate of Merit for Best Feature Film; Kalidas (the Sanskrit poet of Ujjain) in the 1960 film Mahakavi Kalidasu; the 12th Century Sanskrit poet Jayadeva of Bengal in the 1961 film Bhakta Jayadeva; the Kannada sculptor Amarashilpi Jakanachari in the 1964 film Amara Shilpi Jakkanna; the Marathi saint Tukaram in the 1971 film Bhakta Tukaram; Kabir in the 2006 film Sri Ramadasu; Valmiki in the 2009 film Sri Rama Rajyam. Similarly, Rao played many famous mythological figures such as Lord Vishnu in Chenchu Lakshmi; Narada in Bhookailas and Arjuna in Sri Krishnarjuna Yuddhamu.
Rao is also remembered for his performances in romantic dramas Laila Majnu (1949), Devadasu (1953), Anarkali (1955), Batasari (1961), Mooga Manasulu (1964), Prem Nagar (1971), Premabhishekam (1981) and Meghasandesham (1982), which was featured at the 9th International Film Festival of India, the 1983 Cannes Film Festival and the Moscow film festival. Rao also starred in the blockbusters Ardhangi (1955), Donga Ramudu (1955), Mangalya Balam (1958), Gundamma Katha (1962), Doctor Chakravarty (1964), Dharma Daata (1970) and Dussehra Bullodu (1971).
He was one of the instrumental figures in moving the Telugu cinema industry from Madras to Hyderabad in the early 1960s. He established Annapurna Studios in 1976 to provide infrastructural support to the Telugu film industry in Hyderabad. He later started the Annapurna International School of Film and Media within Annapurna Studios in 2011. Manam (2014) was the last film of Rao, who died on 22 January 2014 during the film's production phase. The film was a "befitting swansong", as he always famously said that he wanted to die acting. The film was screened at the 45th International Film Festival of India in the Homage to ANR section on 29 November 2014.
Early life and background
Akkineni Nageswara Rao was born into a lower-middle-class family on 20 September 1923 in Ramapuram, Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh. He was the youngest of five brothers. 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.
From the paddy fields, he strode into the field of fine arts through theatre at the age of 10. He became a famous stage actor, specialising in playing female characters, since women at that time were mostly prohibited from acting. His most noted roles were in some of the famous dramas of the day: Harishchandra, Kanakatara, Vipranarayana, Telugu Talli, Aasajyoti and Satyanveshanam. The turning point of his career came when Ghantasala Balaramaiah, a prominent film producer at that time, discovered him by chance at the Vijayawada railway station. He was cast in the lead role of Rama in Seeta Rama Jananam. This was after his debut in a supporting role in the film Dharmapatni.
From very humble beginnings, he went on to star in over 255 films, spanning the Telugu, Tamil and Hindi languages. A majority of his films were both commercial and critical successes.
Though he did the roles of mythological divine figures such as Rama, Krishna and many others, he was famously an agnostic.
He is fondly called Natasamrat by his fans. In 1953, Rao played the titular role in Devadasu (1953), which is based on the novel of the same name. Deccan Herald reported that several critics had considered Rao's portrayal to be the best among all language versions. Navaratri (1966) made Nageshwara Rao the second actor after Sivaji Ganesan to play nine different roles in a film.
Rao is known for his romanctic roles in films such as Laila Majnu (1949), Anarkali (1955), and Prema Nagar (1971). He also played several mythological characters in Mayabazar (1957), Mahakavi Kalidasu (1965), Bhakta Tukaram (1973), and Sri Ramadasu (2006).
He is fondly called Natasamrat by his fans. Some of his many commercially successful films are Maya Bazaar, Samsaram, Bratuku Theruvu, Aradhana, Donga Ramudu, Dr. Chakravarthi, Ardhaangi, Mangalya Balam, Illarikam, Shantinivasam, Velugu Needalu, Dasara Bullodu, Bharya Bhartalu, Dharmadata, Batasari and College Bullodu. Sitaramayyagari Manavaralu was released in 1991, almost 50 years after his debut, and was a huge success at the box office, despite the influx of younger stars.
Rao played an instrumental role in shifting the base of Telugu cinema from Madras to Hyderabad. During the later 70s, he made a point to work only in the films that were produced in Andhra Pradesh (except for Vijaya Vauhini Studios and Venus Studios films). In 1976. he established Annapurna Studios in Hyderabad as part of his efforts to provide the necessary infrastructure to produce films there.
Rao was very active in social service. Pointing to the sky, he once famously said, "If there's a presence there, I'm sure he'll want us to perform our earthly duties well and be a good human being rather than blindly worship him".
He set up the Akkineni Janmabhoomi trust to foster development in his home town, Ramapuram. He strove hard to have it realised under the Janmabhoomi programme during the TDP regime. He was instrumental in the construction of the Akkineni Varadhi (a bridge named after him), which improved his village's economy by facilitating easy connectivity. In Ramapuram, even safe drinking water was something which was unheard of until Akkineni's contribution towards the construction of a water filtration plant.
He instituted the Akkineni International Foundation in 2005 to honour those who contributed to the Film Industry. The Annapurna International School of Film and Media, founded by his family in 2011, was set up as a non-profit entity. Rao was generous towards educational institutions since the beginning of his career. Even though he didn't have the opportunity to fully complete his schooling, he understood the importance of education. He created scholarships at GITAM University (Vizag). He was the Chief Donor and President of the college at Gudivada, which was subsequently named Akkineni Nageswara Rao College after him. Apart from being a Life member of the board of the Andhra University, he was also adviser to its Department of Dramatics and Theatre Arts. He instituted gold medals for students who excelled in Acting and Direction. In 2012, he instituted the Akkineni Annapurna Educational Trust in memory of his wife Annapurna.
Rao married Annapurna on 18 February 1949. Annapurna Studios (established 1985) is named after her, and she was also credited as presenter for several of the studio's productions. Annapurna died in 2011 after a prolonged illness. The couple had 5 children, namely, Nagarjuna, Venkat Rathnam, Saroja, Sathyavathi, and Naga Susheela.
Nagarjuna, a notable Telugu film actor, was married to Lakshmi Daggubati, daughter of film producer D. Ramanaidu. They have a son, Naga Chaitanya, also an actor. The couple were later divorced, and Nagarjuna married Amala Muherjee, who have a son Akhil Akkineni. Venkat is a film producer who also served as a director of Annapurna Studios. Sathyavathi is married to film producer Yarlagadda Surendra, who have two children, Sumanth and Supriya.
On 19 October 2013, Rao was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He continued shooting for his final film Manam, two weeks after a major laparoscopic surgery, which some doctors feared he wouldn't survive. He had often said that he wished to act till his death, and Manam proved that. His last public appearance was befittingly at the foundation day celebrations of Annapurna Studios on 14 January 2014. Rao died a week later, on 22 January 2014. He was cremated on 23 January 2014, at Annapurna Studios with full state honours amid a 21-gun salute. Thousands were present to pay their last respects.
Awards and honours
- Civilian honors
- Filmfare Best Film Award (Telugu) – Sudigundalu (1968) (shared with veteran Adurthi Subba Rao)
- Best Actor – Telugu – Marapurani Manishi (1973)
- Best Actor – Telugu – Aatma Bandhuvulu (1987)
- Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award – South (1988)
- Best Actor – Telugu – Seetharamaiah Gari Manavaralu (1991)
- Dr. Chakravarthy (1964)
- Antastulu (1965)
- Sudigundalu (1967)
- Meghasandesam (1982)
- Bangaru Kutumbam (1994)
- Other state honours
- Kalidasu Kaustubh from Madhya Pradesh State
- Appointed as an adviser to the State Film Development Corporation.
- Tamil Nadu State Film Honorary Award – Arignar Anna Award in 1992[circular reference]
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