The Life of a Legend – Akkineni Nageswara Rao

Pioneer, Legend, Padma Vibushan and Dada Saheb Phalke awardee Akkineni Nageswara Rao passed away this morning in Hyderabad after battling a prolonged illness. A pioneer who transformed and revolutionized Telegu cinema and won millions of hearts with his bold approach to cinema. Nageswara Rao strode into acting as a theatre artist and performed exceptionally well by playing female characters. His quick grasping power and his eye for innovation was noticed by prominent film producer Balaramaiah who cast him in his first full-length feature film, Dharmapatni. He then went on to star in nearly 75 films as the lead actor including Tamil films Kaanal Neer and Vazhkai Opandam

The characters he played, ranged from a charming lover boy to an alcoholic youth. His charm, his timely pauses, the sparkle in his eyes won him a huge fan following. Even when he played a prominent role in pompous mythological films as Lord Vishnu in Chenchu Lakshmi and Arjuna in Sri Krishnarjuna Yuddham, he played the role with the same intensity and an unmatched flattering smile. The characters he played were often a tribute to Indian icons, he starred as the great Sanskrit poet, Mahakavi, as the celebrated musician saint, Bhakta Jayadeva, and as the temple sculptor, Amarasilpi Jakkann. His most-celebrated role is probably the one of Devadasu. An alcoholic jilted lover. But the movie which won him the title of a superstar was the film Premabhishekam directed by Dasari Narayana Rao is one of the biggest hits in Tollywood. Its run was for an undisputed 533 days in Hyderabad City, which is still the highest run in a city for any Telugu movie.  
The hysteria around his stardom reached feverish pitches with Andhra Pradesh celebrating his stardom all over the world. He was much feted winning several awards including the National and 4 Nandi state awards. The life he gave to his characters won his accolades so much that he was awarded a doctorate. He was invited to be the guest at cultural and literary fests in countries like England, USA and Germany. Nageswar Rao went on to start a film studio to aid the industry and a college to help fund education for students. The ANR National Award was instituted by the foundation in the honor of Akkineni Nageswara Rao in 2005. The award is given annually to recognize people for their lifetime achievements and contributions to the Indian film industry.
To understand Nageswar Rao, one must not only observe his acting skills but also his persona. His immense love for cinema, his effortless acting and how he carried his character with elan. He did not trade on his masculinity like other actors. His characters were often earnest and virtuous. Nageswar Rao went on to become a true legend and an inspiration to many, as well as a remembered icon. He recently finished his shoot for the film Maanam which features 3 generation of actors from his family. He is survived by four children, which includes actor Nagarjuna.

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