VIJAYAWADA: Basavaraju Venkata Padmanabha Rao, better known as Padmanabham to a generation of his countless fans in Telugu cinema, died at his residence at Rangarajapuram, Kodambakkam, in Chennai at 8 a.m. on Saturday. He was 78 and is survived by wife, five daughters and a son. He lost a son in September last. Family members said the veteran actor had been a regular yoga practitioner and enjoyed good health till his death.
Born in Simhadripuram in Kadapa district on August 20, 1931, Padmanabham began his tryst with tinsel world at the age of 12 when the legendary director Gudavalli Ramabrahmam gave him a break in ‘Maayalokam’(1943). He acted in more than 400 movies. In the Prabhas-starrer ‘Chakram’ (2005), he played the role of Padmanabham himself. ‘
Tata Birla Madhyalo Laila’ released in 2006 was his last film.
Padmanabham got major hits in the films directed by K.V. Reddy, including ‘Shavukaaru’(1949), which gave him a footing as a comedian. ‘Paatala Bhairavi’ that released the following year helped him find a permanent place in the world of Telugu cinema.
Though he worked with almost 80 directors in his long career, Padmanabham cherished most his association with Gudavalli Ramabrahmam, Ghantasala Balaramayya, L.V. Prasad and K.V. Reddy.
Padmanabham said in an interview to The Hindu Friday Review in August 2006, when he turned 75, that he was proud that he never aspired for any role but directors sometimes designed certain roles to suit him. “A comedian in those days was always one of the four main characters in a film, standing on the same level as a hero, heroine and villain. I don’t think comedians of the present era are getting the same importance,” he remarked.
Padmanabham was always attached to the role of a rickshaw puller he played in ‘Desoddhaarakudu’(1975). Padmanabham, who directed eight films in all, introduced S.P. Balasubrahmanyam to the film industry through ‘Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna’. ‘Kathaanayika Molla’ he directed in 1969 fetched him the Andhra Pradesh Government’s award.