Akkineni Nageswara Rao
|Akkineni Nageswara Rao|
Rao during his young days
|Born||Akkineni Nageswara Rao
20 September 1924
Venkata Raghava Puram, Madras Presidency, British India
(now Ramapuram, Andhra Pradesh, India)
|Died||22 January 2014
Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India
(now in Telangana, India)
|Spouse(s)||Annapurna Akkineni (1949–2011)|
Naga Susheela Akkineni
|Relatives||See Daggubati-Akkineni Family|
|Awards||Padma Vibhushan (2011)
Padma Bhushan (1988)
Akkineni Nageswara Rao (20 September 1924 – 22 January 2014), widely known as ANR, was an Indian film actor and producer, known for his works predominantly in Telugu cinema. He starred in a variety of roles in his seventy five-year career as a matinee idol, while becoming one of the most prominent figures in the history of Telugu cinema. He was one of the instrumental figures in moving the Telugu cinema industry from Madras to Hyderabad in the early 1960s alongside D. V. S. Raju. He founded Annapurna Studios in the year 1975 to provide infrastructural support to the new film industry in Hyderabad. He later started the Annapurna International School of Film and Media within Annapurna Studios in 2011.
Nageswara Rao is known for his path-breaking works in biographical films; Rao essayed Tamil saint Thondaradippodi Alvar in the 1954 film Vipra Narayana; as Tenali Rama in the 1956 film Tenali Ramakrishna which received the All India Certificate of Merit for Best Feature Film; as Kalidas (the Sanskrit poet of Ujjain) in the 1960 film Mahakavi Kalidasu; as 12th Century Sanskrit poet Jayadeva of Odisha in the 1961 film Bhakta Jayadeva; as Kannada sculptor Amarashilpi Jakanachari in the 1964 film Amara Shilpi Jakkanna; as Marathi saint Tukaram in the 1971 film Bhakta Tukaram; as Kabir in the 2006 film Sri Ramadasu; and as Valmiki in the 2009 film Sri Rama Rajyam. Similarly, Rao essayed mythological figures such as Abhimanyu in Mayabazar which was screened at the 1957 International Film Festival of India and the Indonesian Film Festival; as Lord Vishnu in Chenchu Lakshmi; as Narada in Bhookailas; and as Arjuna in Sri Krishnarjuna Yuddhamu.
Rao is best remembered for his performances in romantic tales such as Laila Majnu (1949), Devadasu (1953), Anarkali (1955), Batasari (1961), Mooga Manasulu (1964), Prem Nagar (1971), Premabhishekam (1981), and Meghasandesham (1982) which was featured at the 9th International Film Festival of India, the 1983 Cannes Film Festival and the Moscow film festival. During this time, Rao has appeared in super-hits such as Ardhangi (1955), Bhale Ramudu (1956), Mangalya Balam (1958), Gundamma Katha (1962), Doctor Chakravarty (1964), Dharma Daata (1970), and Dussehra Bullodu (1971).
Rao received seven state Nandi Awards, and four Filmfare Awards South. He is a recipient of the Dada Saheb Phalke Award, the highest honorary award for achievement in Indian cinema. He was also honored with the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian award, for his contribution towards Indian cinema.
In 1941, at the age of 17, Nageswara Rao made his debut in the Telugu film, Dharmapatni, in which he played the role of the protagonist's friend. Subsequently, ANR was noticed by chance at the Vijayawada railway station by film producer, Ghantasala Balaramaiah, who cast him as Lord Rama in his movie Seeta Rama Jananam. Before that, ANR predominantly acted in theatre, many times donning female roles since women weren't allowed on stage at that time. From those humble beginnings, he went on to star in over 255 films, spanning Telugu, Tamil and Hindi languages. A majority of his films were both commercial and critical successes.
On 19 October 2013 Rao announced that he was diagnosed with colon cancer. He continued shooting for his final film Manam, two weeks after a major laproscopic surgery, surprising many. He had often said that he wished to act till his death, and Manam proved that. His last public appearance was befittingly at the foundation day celebrations of Annapurna Studios on 14 January 2014. Akkineni died a week later, on 22 January 2014. He was cremated on 23 January 2014, at Annapurna Studios with full state honours amid a 21-gun salute. Thousands were present to pay their last respects.
Apart from being a movie star, ANR was a prolific writer. Most of his books were autobiographical works, the most famous of which are Nenu Na Jeevitham, the memoirs of his first visit to the USA, Nenu Choosina America, and a poetic rendition of his personal thoughts, A Aalu.
ANR was very active in social service. Pointing toward the sky, he once famously said, "If there's a presence there, I'm sure he'll want us to perform our earthly duties well and be a good human being rather than blindly worship him".
He set up the Akkineni Janmabhoomi trust in order to foster development in his home town, Ramapuram. He strove hard to realise it under the Janmabhoomi programme during the TDP regime. He was instrumental in the construction of the Akkineni Varadhi (Akkineni bridge, named after him), which improved his village's economy by facilitating easy connectivity. In Ramapuram, even safe drinking water was something which was unheard of until Akkineni contributed to the construction of a water filteration plant.
He instituted the Akkineni International Foundation in 2005 to honour those who contributed to the Film Industry. The Annapurna International School of Film and Media, founded by his family in 2011, was set up as a non-profit entity. Rao was generous towards educational institutions since the beginning of his career. Even though he didn't have the opportunity to go to school, he understood the importance of education. He created scholarships in various state universities such as GITAM University(Vizag). He was the Chief Donor and President of the College at Gudivada, which was subsequently named after him as Akkineni Nageswara Rao College. Apart from being a Life Member of the Senate of Andhra University, he was also Adviser to its Department of Dramatics and Theatre Arts. He instituted Gold Medals for students who excelled in Acting and Direction. In 2012, he instituted the Akkineni Annapurna Educational Trust in memory of his wife Annapurna.
Awards and honours
- Civilian honors
- Filmfare Best Film Award (Telugu) - Sudigundalu (1968) (shared with veteran Adurthi Subba Rao)
- Best Actor – Telugu – Marapurani Manishi (1973)
- Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award – South (1988) 
- Best Actor – Telugu - Seetharamaiah Gari Manavaralu (1991)
- Dr. Chakravarthy (1964)
- Antastulu (1965)
- Sudigundalu (1967)
- Meghasandesam (1982)
- Bangaru Kutumbam (1994)
- Other state honours
- Kalidasu Kaustubh from Madhya Pradesh State
- Appointed as an adviser to the State Film Development Corporation.
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