Hyderabad: Legendary Telugu film actor and Dada Saheb Phalke Awardee Akkineni Nageshwara Rao, passed away early on Wednesday morning. ANR, as he is fondly called, was suffering from cancer.
His condition worsened at around 2.10 am on Wednesday following which he was taken to Care hospital, where he breathed his last at 2.45 am. He was 91. Popular actor Nagarjuna is his son. He was also awarded Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan.
Among the awards he has received in recognition of his work are the Raghupathi Venkaiah Award and the NTR National Award. His death marks the end of another glorious, unforgettable chapter in Telugu cinema, an industry that makes the second largest number of films, next only to Bollywood.
His body has been shifted to his residence. His last rites will be performed after his body is kept for fans to pay respects at the Annapurna Studio in Hyderabad.
Rao has acted in nearly 256 films. He and NT Rama Rao were considered the two key Telugu actors of their era.
He was popularly known as ANR. He wrapped up his work with a famous film Manam that saw three generations of the Akkineni family including himself, actor Nagarjuna and grandson Naga Chaitanya in it.
From paddy fields of rural Andhra Pradesh, he strode into the field of fine arts through theatre. He became a famous stage artiste, specializing in playing female characters, because women at that time were prohibited from acting. Some of the famous plays he acted in were Harishchandra, Kanakatara, Vipranarayana, Telugu Talli, Aasajyoti and Satyanveshanam.
Subsequently, he was discovered, by chance, by the then prominent film producer, Ghantasala Balaramaiah, at Vijayawada railway station. He was then cast in the film Dharmapatni at the age of 17 in 1941. Since then, Nageswara Rao has starred in hundreds of films of various genres during his unparalleled 75-year acting career.
A unique feature that won ANR acclaim from critics and art lovers was that he enacted the roles of literary and cultural icons of different regions in India, thereby making them instruments of national integration - as the great Sanskrit poet, Mahakavi Kalidas of Ujjain; as the celebrated musician saint, Bhakta Jayadeva of Odisha; as the temple sculptor, Amarasilpi Jakkanna of Karnataka; as the devotee saint, Vipranarayana of Tamil Nadu; and as the singer Bhakta Tukaram.