Dr Akkineni Nageshwara Rao aka ANR was an Indian film actor, Studio Owner, who worked predominantly in Telugu Cinema was born 20th September 1924 in a farmer’s family to the couple Akkineni Venkataratnam and Akkineni Punnamma at Ramapuram, Andhra Pradesh.
Akkineni Nageshwara Rao (ANR) is known as the Doyen of Telugu film fraternity who was one of the first-star heroes of Telugu film in it’s primitive years. ANR lived and breathed Cinema till the end and he was equally at home all genres of Cinema from historical, mythological, folk, adventure and social drama. ANR, the last of the first generation heroes was an atheist by nature, but a firm believer of destiny as his foray into films was a mere destiny. There have been many glorious moments in his 71 years oeuvre. The cinephilia’s Cinema graph has been a surreal journey traversing through the silent era, talkies, Eastman colour, colour and digital ages.
As a kid, Nageshwara Rao was not much interested in studies and was dropped out after 4th standard. He was was drawn towards stage shows and dramas and participated in many shows, but never dreamt of being an actor. As the fate has something stored in it for him, the moving the vivacious youngster around at the Railway Platform in Vijayawada was spotted by a the noted film producer Ghantasala Balaramaiah who offered him role in Seetharamajananam.
The critically acclaimed and highly successful Devadasu changed the fortunes of ANR overnight, earned him fame and helped him rose to stardom for his portrayal of poignant Devadasu, in which he was seen as an alcoholic jilted lover. Post Devadasu, he has become a tour de force for tragic roles. Despite many actors across all the Indian Languages have reprised the titular of Devadasu, none could match the legendary actor. Even, the legendary actor Dilip Kumar who acted in the Hindi version of Devadasu had said he couldn’t able to match ANR in the role. Such was the impact created by ANR.
Though ANR never believed in God, ANR has portrayed the roles of a Devotee in many films like Kalidasu, Bhakata Tukaram, Vipranarayana and Sri Ramadasu. Apart from a great actor, he is a philanthropist and great philosopher. During the 70s when there was a transformation from Black & White era to Color Cinema while NTR was associated with K Raghavendra Rao, ANR was associated with the Director Dasari Narayana Rao and the duo has delivered many blockbusters.
ANR was highly influential in bringing Telugu Film Industry from Chennai to Hyderabad. In order to create a special identity to Telugu Film Industry, he has shifted his base to the City during the peak of his career and constructed the Annapurna Studios in 1975.
ANR was first diagnosed with cancer in 1974 and the Doctors in the USA were of the opinion that he would live up to the maximum of 10-12 years, but he proved the wrong and lived for 40 long years without any health issues by following strict health regimen. The legendary ANR wrapped up his work with Manam that featured three generations of the Akkineni family, including him, Nagarjuna and grandson Naga Chaitanya. The movie Manam holds a distinction as it’s the only second film after Hindi movie Kal Aaj Aur Kal to feature all the heroes of 3 generations from the same family. ANR has acted with his son Nagarjuna, grandsons Naga Chaitanya and Akhil (Cameo Appearance).
The legendary actor has been liberally graced with all the awards an actor can get including the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibushan and also Dada Saheb Phalke, the greatest honor for an actor in the Country. He also received several lifetime achievement awards in various countries apart from the prestigious awards instituted by the government of Andhra Pradesh and has been honored with the honorary Doctorate by several Indian Universities.
Along with ANR, his family continued their association with the films. His elder son Akkineni Venkat turned a producer and produced many super hits under Annapurna Studios Banner and younger son Nagarjuna Akkineni is a Star Hero in Telugu films.
ANR’s grandsons Sumanth, Sushant, Naga Chaitanya and Akhil are also popular heroes in Tollywood.
The legendary actor and Dadasaheb Phalke Awardee, who carried the aura even beyond the screen has been an iconic deified figure all through his life. The nonagenarian thespian was diagnosed with intestinal cancer while shooting for Manam, after battling with the Cancer for few months, the legendary actor breathed his last breath on 22nd January 2013.
The Awards list include:
Padma Vibhushan (2011), Padma Bhushan (1988),Padma Shri (1968),Dada Sahel Phalke Award (1991),Nandi Awards (1982), (1994),Raghupathi Venkaiah Award (1989),NTR National Awards (1996),Filmfare Awards (South) (1968), (1973) ,(1988), (1991), (1994), Kalidasu Kaustubh from Madhya Pradesh State.