By Deepa Rana
New Delhi: He was a legend in the Telugu film industry. But in real life, Akkineni Nageswara Rao, popularly known as ANR, was a humble man, says his son and Telugu superstar Nagarjuna.
It would be near impossible to fill the gap created by the demise Jan 22 of his 91-year-old father who won the Padma Vibhushan and Dadasaheb Phalke Award for his contribution to cinema, Nagarjuna told IANS in a telephone interview.
“My childhood was special because dad brought me a bicycle when I was small and I loved it,” Nagarjuna said in the interview, detailing his earliest memories of ANR.
How do you differentiate between ANR the father and the star?
“They were completely different. My father was a humble human being and a very disciplined actor,” Nag, as he is fondly known, said.
Nag, 54, is one of the top stars in Telugu cinema. He has so far acted in over 80 movies, mainly in Telugu. He has also starred in Hindi films including “Shiva”, “LoC Kargil” and “Criminal”.
“I remember going to shoots with dad, with my brother and sister,” recalled Nag with a deep sigh.
“It was his aura and presence that moved me every time he would walk into a room… He was my best guide.”
ANR played a critical role once Nag decided to plunge into the movie industry, giving him invaluable tips.
Even as a busy actor, Nag pined for his father’s company.
“I would wait for him so that we can have dinner together. After a tiring day, my most precious time (was spent) with him,” Nag said.
ANR was an unobtrusive observer of the Telugu movie industry, the second biggest in India after Bollywood.
In a career spanning seven decades, he was the undisputed emperor of the Telugu film industry. But despite the dizzying success, he never lost links with Ramapuram in Andra Pradesh where he was born.
Nag gets emotional while talking about ANR, whose story was a rags-to-riches one, akin to a blockbuster production.
ANR’s talent was discovered in 1941 at the Vijayawada railway station by chance.
In no time, ANR — son of a farmer — was roped in as a child artiste for the movie “Dharmapatni” in which he played the role of a 15-year-old.
Blessed with an expressive face and a pair of eyes that talked emotions and a body that moved with spirit and style, it took no time for the teenager to mature into a successful actor.
As more and more roles came his way, his films ran to packed houses.
ANR could easily switch from a female with a loud make-up to a tragic lover. He starred in several films — of various genres. He was the first ‘Devdas’ of Indian cinema, preceding Dilip Kumar.
ANR was also called the tragedy king. Although an atheist, he enacted successfully mythological roles. The ease with which he portrayed various characters made him a superstar.
Some of his outstanding performances included films such as “Balaraju”, “Laila Majnu” and “Preminchi Choodu”.
ANR has also acted with his son Nagarjuna and grandson Naga Chaitanya in a yet to be released film “Maanam”.
He won several accolades inlcuding the Dadasaheb Phalke Award (1991) and Padma Vibhushan (2011).
According to Nag, ANR was a successful writer too. His works include “Nenu Na Jeevitham”, “A Aalu” and “Nenu Choosina America”.
Such was ANR’s stature that a national award was set up in his name in 2005. Among those who have won it are Shyam Benegal, Dev Anand and Shabana Azmi.