Though he acted in only a few films, Nageswara Rao secured a permanent place in the Tamil movie world.
Bharathidasan’s Thunbam Nergaiyil Yazh Eduthu is a quintessential Tamil song that was a favourite at Tamil music festivals for decades. However, it was a Telugu face that gave an enduring appeal to the song. When Akkineni Nageswara Rao paired with Lalitha and stressed the word ‘Kanney, Kanney’ in the film Or Iravu, it stole the hearts of a generation of fans in Tamil Nadu.
The dialogues for Or Iravu, released in 1952, were penned by former Chief Minister C.N. Annadurai. Though Bharthidasan conceived the song as a dialogue between a parent and a child, in the film, it was converted into a romantic song. The music director was R. Sudarsanam, but tune of the song in desh ragam was set by late singer M.M. Dhandapani Desikar, who was in the forefront of the Tamil Isai Movement.
Though he acted in only a few films, Nageswara Rao secured a permanent place in the Tamil movie world. As Devadas in the eponymous film, he epitomised tragic love heroes. The songs in the film Ulagay Mayam Vaazhvey Mayam and O Parvathy continue to haunt generations of film music fans.
Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, who had acted with him in many films, said Nageswara Rao left an indelible mark as Devadas. “It took him to ultimate glory,” she said in her condolence message.
Ms. Jayalalithaa recalled that her first film in Telugu, Manashulu Mamathalu, was with Nageswara Rao. “He was always the soul of courtesy and pleasant to work with. His death has left a void that can never be filled. India has lost one of its greatest actors and his demise is an irreparable loss to the film industry, as well as to the nation,” she said.
Nageswara Rao’s other Tamil films include Poongothai, Allaudinum Aruputha Vilakkum, Madharkula Manikkam, Kalyanaparisu, Manjal Mahimai and Enga Veetu Mahalakshmi.