The Telugu film Industry has seen a lot of legendary figures in the acting arena, but some names stand out as ‘redoubtable’ personalities in the field of histrionics. The names of S.V. Ranga Rao and Savitri standout in this respect. Many legendary stories are still afresh about the ‘gifted’ quality of both these powerhouses of talent, who used to dominate the scenes with their perfect sync, emotion and dominance.
July 3rd, 2019 is the 101st birth anniversary of S.V. Ranga Rao, a great man who continues to mesmerize generations with his titanic performances in various Tamil and Telugu movies.
As we remember the great acting maestro, who many believe started ‘method acting’ in Tollywood, it will be pertinent to remember his top five movies, which one should not miss at any cost.
- Pathala Bhairavi (1951)
The film which established S.V. Ranga Rao as a force to be reckoned with was K.V. Reddy’s Pathala Bhairavi, in which he played the fearsome, imposing sorcerer Nepala Mantrikudu. The N.T. Rama Rao starrer had S.V. Ranga Rao dominate the proceedings in every combination scene. The movie mounted S.V. Ranga Rao as the great thespian who could convey a plethora of emotions through a small twitch of his eyebrows, a meagre hand gesture or a sigh, depending on the mood, with impeccable voice modulation suited for the role.
The movie is considered to be the magnum opus of K.V. Reddy in the folklore genre till today.
2. Sati Savitri (1957)
The mythological story of the power of Savitri, a devotee of Devi, who brings back the life of her husband from Yama, the god of death, was made into a film by actress singer S. Varalakshmi in 1957. S.V. Ranga Rao portrayed the role of the Hindu god of death, Yama, in Sati Savitri. So imposing was his portrayal, it made the then Chinese Premier, Zhou Enlai, shudder in fear and intimidation. The Chinease head was visiting India then and came to Madras’ (now Chennai) Vauhini Studios as a part of his visit. He came across the sets of Sati Savitri and heard the roaring voice of S.V. Ranga Rao in the background. When he paid a visit there, he was taken aback by the attire of S.V. Ranga Rao. Enlai then enquired about the details of the movie and congratulated S.V. Ranga Rao for his performance in the scenes of the kingdom of death.
Such was the magnetic screen presence of S.V. Ranga Rao.
- Mayabazar (1957)
The mythological masterpiece of K.V. Reddy is an all time favourite in the history of not only Telugu cinema, but the Indian film industry. CNN IBN conducted a poll about the greatest movie in India, years ago, with people voting Mayabazar as the number one movie. The main reason for this is undoubtedly the portrayal of Ghatotkacha by S.V. Ranga Rao and the illusory role of Sasirekha, played by the redoubtable Savitri. Mayabazar and S.V. Ranga Rao’s portrayal of Ghatotkacha, his dialogues, everything remains a classic till date and the movie itself, a part of the Telugu heritage.
- Nartanasala (1963)
Another film which put S.V. Ranga Rao on the world cinema pedestal is this classic mythological by the legendary director, Kamalakara Kameswara Rao. The story of Mahabharata describing the one year exile of the Pandava princes under King Virata, was a blockbuster.
Savitri, N.T. Rama Rao, Relangi, L. Vijayalakshmi and an array of Telugu film stalwarts were in the movie. As usual, the lion’s share was taken by S.V. Ranga Rao, who donned the role of the crown prince Kichaka of Virata’s kingdom. As a loathsome person who lusts for Draupadi, S.V. Ranga Rao showed emotions which were top class. His inimitable screen presence in the movie made HIM the hero. In reality, the character of Kichaka is considered a villain.
Nartanasala was a part of the 3rd Afro-Asian Film Festival in Jakarta, Indonesia, competition section, in which it won the Best Actor award for S.V. Ranga Rao and Best Art Director award for T.V.S. Sarma. The Indonesian President of the time, General Sukarno, specially congratulated Team Nartanasala for their great work of art.
Nartanasala also won the award for being the second best feature film of India for the year 1963, at the 9th National Film Awards of India.
- Bhakta Prahlada (1967)
This AVM Productions mythological proved again the mammoth stature of S.V. Ranga Rao as the best option to don mythological antagonists’ roles. He played the role of Hiranyakashipu, the demon king who is slayed by Lord Vishnu as the incarnation of Lord Narasimha. The movie is remembered for S.V. Ranga Rao’s scenes with a five year old Rojaramani, who overcame all the odds to come out triumphant with the great S.V. Ranga Rao. Rojaramani played role of the child devotee of Vishnu, Prahlada.
At this moment of homage to the great man, it is only befitting the younger generations watch his movies and marvel at the fact such a world class actor existed once in our own Tollywood.
We are truly honored and proud to be watching your work, S.V. Ranga Rao!