ANR: Telugu cinema's Titan
From a farmer’s boy 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.

ANR, as he is fondly called by fans, started his career as an actor in theatre. In the initially year of his career, he even played woman’s role. Rao’s passion for cinema was spotted by his mother at a very young age.

His was a true rags-to-riches story. While he made his cinematic debut in 1941 Telugu film “Dharmapatni” in a brief role, in 1944, he was picked up from the platform of Bezawada (Vijayawada now) railway station and was signed on to play the lead role in Telugu drama “Sitarama Jananam”.

Rao never hesitated to play a variety of roles, such as a villager, an urban educated protagonist, a tragic hero and even a comedian, to sustain his popularity over the years. He believed in longevity and, therefore, constantly chose to play different roles as he never wanted the audience to get bored of seeing him on screen.

While ANR will be remembered for many wonderful films such as “Devadasu”, “Mayabazar”, “Dr. Chakravarthy” and “Muga Manasulu”, “Sudigundaalu”, “Antastulu” and “Meghasandesam”, Rao’s best work was from “Batasari” and “Devadasu”.

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.

In 1966 Telugu drama “Navaratri”, ANR 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.

Mostly remembered for his romantic roles in films “Laila Majnu”, “Anarkali” and “Prem Nagar”, Rao had also starred and proven his mettle in several mythological characters in “Mayabazar”, “Mahakavi Kalidasu” and “Bhakta Tukaram”, “Sri Ramadasu” and “Sri Rama Rajyam”.

In his 74-year old illustrious career, he had starred in 235 Telugu films, 20 Tamil and one Hindi. Some of his best Tamil films include “Anbumagan”, “Kanal Neer” and “Pen Manam”.

Although he was enjoying a successful career in Tamil industry too, Rao quickly shifted base to Hyderabad to ensure longevity in Telugu filmdom and also wanted his children to learn and speak their mother tongue.

A true disciplinarian in reel and real life, Rao succeeded because of passion and devotion. He believed as an actor one shoulders lot of responsibility, and, therefore, he or she should always be careful about his or her actions both in films and in public life.

Rao was instrumental in setting up one of the biggest studios in India. Named after his late wife, Annapurna Studios will remain as thespian’s biggest gift to Indian cinema. He had also set up a film school as he believed in the philosophy of giving back to the society.

ANR’s last film was Telugu family drama “Manam” with son Nagarjuna and grandson Naga Chaitanya. The film is slated for release in 2014.

The veteran actor died on Wednesday due to intestinal cancer. He is survived by two sons and three daughters.