Randor Guy pays homage to the multi-faceted actor Anjali Devi who passed away recently
Anjali Devi was one of the most successful actors of Indian Cinema, a multifaceted personality with an enviable record of films in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Hindi.
Extremely beautiful, she had talent which bestowed her with superstardom. A good dancer, she essayed a variety of roles — beginning with vamp, later heroine and with advancing years she donned the roles of a mother and elder sister. Above all, she was a person of charm and engaging manners.
She acted in several Telugu films, and quite a few in Tamil, Hindi and Kannada. Besides acting, she was also a successful producer making films under the banner Anjali Pictures along with her music composer husband P. Adhinarayana Rao.
Within the scope of a single article, it is difficult to take an in-depth look at her many movies in many languages but mention must be made of at least some of them….
Gollabhama skyrocketed her to overnight stardom as the vamp; Kelugurram (the magic flying horse fantasy, inspired by Arabian Nights) a super hit, was also dubbed into Tamil as Maya Kudhirai; and Balaraju in which she played a vamp again.
In the beginning, she was mostly cast as the vamp because of her uninhibited style of dancing and acting. Her other hits in Telugu are Palleturi Pilla, Swapna Sundari, Nirdoshi, Pakkayinti Ammayi, Anarkali (she played the lead), Panduranga Mahatmyam, Lava Kusha (a super hit in which she played Seetha, the mother, considered her best role), Rangula Ratnam (a B.N. Reddi classic, with Pushpavalli, the leading star of her day and her kid daughter named Bhanurekha, later the top Hindi star Rekha) and Bhaktha Prahalada.
Her Tamil films include Adutha Veetu Penn, a hit, Sarvadhikari (with MGR), Kanavaney Kankanda Deivam, a hit with Gemini Ganesan, Marmayogi (with MGR as hero), Muthal Thethi (with Sivaji Ganesan), Adithan Kanavu (with T.R. Mahalingam) Mangayarkarasi (with P.U. Chinnappa) and Penn (with Gemini Ganesan and Vyjayanthimala).
Her Hindi films include Suvarna Sundari and Phoolon Ke Sez.
Anjali Devi was born in August 1927 in Peddhapuram near Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh, then in Madras Presidency. Hailing from a community of dancers, she was named Anjamma at first. Then she became Anjani. She came into contact with Adhinarayana Rao, her husband, who introduced her to the stage with the popular drama group of Kakinada, 'Young Men’s Happy Club’. Soon she became his wife, and they moved to Madras.
Looking for a break in movies, she went to Salem to play an also-seen role in a forgotten film Varudhini, in which the later day south Indian superstar S.V. Ranga Rao played the hero. While this film was under production, Raja Saheb of Mirzapuram, the boss of Shobhanachala Pictures and studio on Murray’s Gate Road in Alwarpet, and his director C. Pullaiah wanted to cast her in their film Gollabhama (1947). They sent their production man Relangi (who later became a cult figure and icon of Telugu film comedy) to approach her. The film was a super hit mainly because of her. The director Pullaiah changed her name to Anjali Devi. The rest is history, as they say.
She produced a few successful films in Telugu such as Suvarna Sundari and Phoolon Ke Sez in Hindi. Soon production landed her in bankruptcy. Her brilliant lawyer S. Pichai pulled her out of the quagmire and she successfully resumed her career.
Anjali Devi had two sons both of whom enjoy lucrative careers in the United States. One of her daughters-in-law is the daughter of ace comedian K. Sarangapani.
During a long and eventful career, she has acted with all the top stars of cinema such as A. Nageswara Rao, N.T. Rama Rao, Sivaji Ganesan, M.G. Ramachandran, Gemini Ganesan and T. L. Kantha Rao. She played Rajinikanth’s mother in Annai Ore Alayam. She received many awards for her work.
She fell ill a few days ago and was admitted to a local hospital where she passed away at the age of 86, leaving behind millions of fans and admirers to mourn her loss.
An outstanding act of generosity was that she donated her body to Sri Ramachandra Medical College Hospital in Chennai. This single act alone elevates her as a rare human being of great character, culture and more.