New Delhi: Akkineni Nageswara Rao, Telugu cinema's first superstar, died of cancer at the age of 89 today.
Akkineni Nageswara Rao, popularly known as ANR, was born in Ramapuram, Andhra Pradesh on September 20, 1924 to farmer parents. He started his career with theatre and made his film debut at the tender age of 17 with the Telugu movie Dharmapatni (1941). A chance discovery by noted film producer Ghantasala Balaramaiah landed him the lead role of Lord Rama in Seeta Rama Jananam (1944).
ANR attained the status of a superstar with films targetting rural cine-goers such as Balaraju (1948), Rojulu Marayi (1955) and Nammina Bantu (1960). He was a versatile actor who played a multitude of roles ranging from a prince to a government official. But his forte was playing mythological figures. He played Abhimanyu in Maya Bazaar (1957), Lord Vishnu in Chenchu Lakshmi (1958) and Arjuna in Sri Krishnarjuna Yuddham (1962).
ANR earned the title of Telugu cinema's Tragedy King for his powerful performances in movies such as Laila Majnu (1949), Anarkali (1955), Premabhishekam (1981), and Meghasandesham (1983). He also acted in a number of comedies such as Chakrapani (1954), Missamma (1955) and Preminchi Choodu (1965). The superhit movie Premabhishekam ran for a record-breaking 533 days in Hyderabad and is still the longest running Telugu film in a city till date. His role as the jilted alcoholic lover in Devadasu (1953), based on Bengali author Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's famous character, won accolades even from the likes of Bollywood star Dilip Kumar who played the love-lorn Devdas in the Hindi film of the same name.
ANR also earned widespread acclaim for playing cultural icons such as Kalidas, Bhakta Jayadeva of Odisha, Vipranarayana or the singer Bhakta Tukaram. He represented India as a cultural ambassador all over the world in countries such as USA, Russia, UK, France, Germany, Denmark and Malaysia.
ANR received three Filmfare Best Actor awards in his 75-year long acting career. He was honoured with the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Award in 1991 and also received the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian award, for his contribution to Indian cinema.
ANR was the head of a Telugu film dynasty which includes son and Telugu superstar Nagarjuna and grandson Naga Chaitanya. Nagarjuna's wife Amala is an actress and second son Akhil is an aspiring actor. ANR is also survived by his other son Akkineni Venkat and daughters Sathyavati and Susheela.