Full of life and soaring spirits

ALL SMILES ANR is now a proud great grandfather

ALL SMILES ANR is now a proud great grandfather  

ANR continues to bask in the warmth and love of his fans

He picks up the phone on the third ring and jauntily speaks in his typical tenor. His quiet drawing room corridor is lined up with film memorabilia, pebble-textured artefacts and tinted picture stills. At the entrance stands a stone Ganesha. "I have become a great grandfather, Subrahmanyam. My granddaughter has given birth to a beautiful baby girl. It is because of your blessings that I have lived to see this day. Thank you Subbu for the cashewnuts," Akkineni Nageswara Rao gushes on the phone talking to one of his ardent admirers calling from Vizianagaram. Time hardly seem to have withered his zest for life. Dressed in a starched khadi shirt, he gives the impression that here is a man who is all of 83 going on 18. "I do not like to be trapped in time. I'd much rather read, travel, meet people and have yet another idea flower in me," he breaks into a smile. "Though Subbu is visually challenged, he can sense and share emotions. Such is his grasping power that he tells me that Nag acted brilliantly in one particular shot in Mass. He has `seen' Sumanth's Chinnodu too. His verve excites me," says the veteran in his inimitable Akkineni style. From the days of director Balaramaiah spotting him on a railway platform in Gudivada and offering him a role in 1941 to circa 2006, acting has been the driving force for Akkineni. For him, strength behind belief is the key ingredient. "Though I don't believe in God, I could portray roles like Vipra Narayana or Bhakta Tukaram. It's possible because I have total bhatki bhavam towards the role I play," he avows. As you keep admiring his wealth of knowledge, a 90-year-old frail woman knocks on the door. With a small boy by her side, she intones: " Nayana, I am at the fag end of my life. I came to see you for one last glimpse before I leave this world. I still remember you in `Balaraju,' `Keelugurram' and `Devdas'." His eyes turn moist. "See, this is what I call love. Pure love. She didn't come here expecting something from me. I am deeply indebted to people like her. Their affection is my inner strength," he hugs her and bids her a goodbye. His mind works at lightning speed, bursting pearls of wisdom - topics ranging from astronomy to zoology -- every now and then. "Like diseases have medicines, imaginations have interpretations. I am lucky that I worked with great directors. I have always picked and chosen roles which bring out the best in me," he says. "Those days we spread our imagination towards bettering society. Sharat Chandra's novels were path breaking in that sense and we thought the country would prosper. And look where our leaders have led us. In fact, I would say politicians are the best actors," he laughs. And the mention of veteran actors mellows the thespian. "Most of my co-actors and directors are gone. They were master storytellers whose simplicity of characters reflected in the wholesome goodness of the films. In a 65-year film career span, the fact that I have acted in 254 films only confirms that I have been very selective," he drawls. "I love to do simple things in life like spending time with my grandchildren," he says as he plucks coriander leaves in his garden. Saying that happiness is what happiness does, he declares: "I can vouch that I'm the epitome of contentment. Probably that helps me stay healthy." "I am very close to my grandson Sumanth who grew up here. Nagarjuna is shy and is more attached to his mother. I used to be pretty strict with him when he was a kid," he says breaking into a smile. Life has moved into the fast lane. And within the trials and tribulations of daily routine, he tries to seek solace. Yes, years roll on, but Akkineni remains the eternal young man. G. ARUN KUMAR

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