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Akkineni no more

Suresh Krishnamoorthy
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Akkineni Nageswara Rao.— A file photo
Akkineni Nageswara Rao.— A file photo

Legendary Telugu film actor Akkineni Nageswara Rao, who stole the hearts of millions of fans across the world, is no more. He breathed his last in the early hours of Wednesday at a private hospital where, for the past few months, he was undergoing treatment for intestinal cancer.

The 91-year-old doyen of the Telugu film industry is survived by three daughters and two sons, including actor Nagarjuna, and grand-children. His body will be cremated with police honours at Annapurna Studios at around 4.30 p.m. on Thursday.

Born in Venkata Raghavapuram of Krishna district on September 20, 1923, the first-generation actor’s 75-year-old career comprised 256 films across social, romantic and mythological genres.

He started his career with theatre playing female roles, but soon switched over to silver screen and made his film debut in 1941 with Dharmapatni . ANR, as he was popularly called by his fans, wrapped up his work with Manam that featured three generations of the Akkineni family, including him, Nagarjuna and grandson Naga Chaitanya.

His death marks the end of a glorious era in Telugu cinema as he, along with N.T. Rama Rao, another legend, bestrode the Telugu film firmament between 50s and 70s.

The very mention of Akkineni brings to mind films such as Devadasu , in which he played a lover-turned-alcoholic. It is said that he fasted to look anaemic in this film. He switched roles with felicity and played romantic hero in Premabhishekam , directed by Dasari Narayana Rao, that ran for over 500 days in Hyderabad in the early 80s.

The first to don a dual role in Telugu films in Iddaru Mitrulu , he also holds the distinction of essaying nine characters in Navaratri . His another memorable performance was in Sitaramayyagari Manavaralu , made exactly 50 years after his debut. He played the role of a flamboyant lover in Dasara Bullodu , directed by V.B. Rajendra Prasad in 1971, opposite Vanisri and Chandrakala.

His other hit films included Batasari , Laila Majnu , Anarkali , Prema Nagar and Megha Sandesam . He has been honoured with Padma Vibhushan, Dada Saheb Phalke Award, the Raghupathi Venkaiah Award and the NTR National Award too. Though the thespian had been ailing for a while now, he surprised people last year saying he was diagnosed with cancer. He also said that with the wishes of his fans, he wanted to live up to a 100 years.

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