Akkineni Nageswara Rao, popularly known as ANR, is no more. He died of cancer at a private hospital here in the early hours of Wednesday, plunging the industry into gloom. 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 N.T. Rama Rao (NTR) who died in 1996.
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
Akkineni Nageswara Rao popularly known as ANR 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. His passion for cinema was spotted by his mother at a very young age.
He was truly a rags-to-riches story. He made his cinematic debut in 1941 Telugu filmDharmapatni with a brief role, and in 1944 he was picked up from the platform of Bezawada (now Vijayawada) railway station and signed on to play the lead role in Telugu drama Sitarama Jananam.
Akkineni Nageswara Rao was born in Ramapuram, Andhra Pradesh on September 20, 1923 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.
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.