Akkineni Nageswar Rao garu – we fondly call him ANR garu or Akkineni – for his admirers “Akkineni” the name itself brings so many positive vibrations. For me he is a matinée IDOL, I have grown up relishing his movies. I really do not know what my first movie was as we were not grown up in the age where every ‘FIRST’ moment or any memory – smile, laughter, cry, foot print, handprints, steps, crawling, everything worthwhile – captured as a KEEPSAKE. But one of my all-time favourites is ‘Gundamma Katha’, my parents must have taken me to that movie when I was 4 years old, may be they have taken me to his earlier movies also, but this movie might stuck with me as I might have reached the age of remembering things. And the love for that movie has not ceased till now and that fragrance may stay with me until I leave this world. I have seen this movie countless times, whenever this movie released in the theatres, I did not miss it. I think it was Leela Mahal in Visakhapatnam used to release all movies of Vijaya Banner during certain period every year. Vijaya banner is known for producing ‘golden films’. With the use of excellent narration skills and the right casting, it is a wholesome entertainer. This film is also a musical masterpiece. Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao garu has given excellent music. I think even current generation would not dare to complain about this movie. And the songs are ‘Ani muthyalu’. Even the present generation heroes from both Akkineni and Nandamuri families do not dare to remake the movie with the apprehension of not getting the right artist to replace the GREAT Surya Kanthamma garu. When I was 18 or 19 years old, we were in Kakinada at that time, my mother was sick and I was taking of care of the kitchen as my sisters were all married by that time. We are eight siblings, four boys and four girls and I am the youngest in the family. One night I finished all the cooking and I was very much tired and my third bother had asked me to prepare some special dish, I think it was prawns fried rice as we had prawns at home. I was really not in a mood and rejected his request and then he casually told me that Gundamma Katha was being screened at a theatre, I think it was Kalpana theatre and they also followed the same tradition of rescreening Vijaya Banner movies during off-season. And he promised that he would take me to that movie for the second show. I immediately jumped into kitchen, prepared his relished dish and he finished the dinner and when I was about to getting ready, he told me that he had played a prank on me as I was very much unwilling to cook the dish he wanted. I really wanted to kill him, and bursted into tears and my elder brother had scolded my other brother for making me cry, but that is all irrelevant for the story. But the point that is my LOVE and PASSION for that movie. Of course now I have the DVD and I can watch any number of times without obliging for someone’s requests.
There are many of his movies I have watched innumerable times. If I need to list my favourite movies without checking his list of movies online, just those come to my mind without any order of preference – Mayabazar, JayaBheri, Missamma, Thodi kodallu, Manglya Balam, Iddaru Mithrulu, Dr. Chakravarthi, Mahakavi Kalidasu, Velugu Needalu, Aradhana, Manchi Kutumbam, Andala Ramudu, Seetha Ramayyagari Manamaralu, Dasara Bullodu, Chaduvukunna ammayilu, Suthradharulu, Mooga Manasulu, Manchi Manasulu, Illarikum, Siri Sampadalu, Buddhimanthudu, Tenali Ramakrishna and the list goes on and on. Someone might think why ‘Devadasu’, one of his masterpiece works, didn’t hit my mind. My simple answer is I can’t handle tragedies. That one is the Tragedy of Tragedies. And the music in most of his movies is outstanding and those songs spread their beautiful, soothing fragrance as long as cinema lives.
Why I like, love, admire or adore Nageswara Rao garu? I was not grown up in an age of internet, not even in the age of television, only RADIO. That is the reason we looked forward for movies’ releases. There was no ‘PIRACY’ in the dictionary of cinema at that time. That is the reason movies celebrated Silver and Golden Jubilees. With the same ethics I have been brought up, even today I do not watch movies or download MP3s from online. Either I watch them in the theatre or I buy DVDs or BlueRays when they get released officially and buy the audio CDS. So when I was growing up, I like him because of his STYLE; his body language: especially his eyes are very expressive – they emote every feeling, let it be love, romance, grief, innocence, fear, mischief, anger, navarasalu; His dressing style is one of the best not only at his times even with the today’s standards. His full hands shirts tucked in and wearing a tie and his sleek suits. He was very conscious about it and he did not have that many resources as those available to present generation artists to up-to-date him self with latest styles of that time. He might have researched Hindi or English movies to update his STYLE. Whenever I remember him, I would visualize him with his sleek suits and nice shirts and tie invariably all the time. Coincidentally my husband is like that – very particular with his dressing. He had to have a TIE and a blazer at least if he was not wearing a formal suit. Even my husband’s nieces lovingly called him ‘Evergreen hero’ relating him to the GREAT ANR garu. A small example to depict my husband’s dress consciousness – one night I was not feeling that well as my blood pressure was rising whenever I was checking and I thought of going to emergency and I woke him up and told him about the situation, he immediately got ready, with a full hand shirt + tie + blazer, I had to tell him that we were going to ER not to a party. But he had his own reasons – dressing style speaks a lot and people immediately pay attention to you. I cannot completely thrash him out as he had a valid point.
And for some reason, I enjoyed social movies a lot. I was even reluctant to watch mythological or folklore movies. Even today the status stays the same – urikae anaru kadha “puttinappudu vachhina buddhlu pudakalu thonae kani poyani”. That may stay absolutely TRUE in my case. And off the screen, ANR garu was a very simple person, wore khadhu pancha and khadi lalchi in WHITE only. That is what my father used to wear (only in white) all through his life from his teenage until his death just as a Gandhi follower. My father and my husband are HUGE icons in my life. so ANR garu’s dressing style resembles my dad’s off-screen and my husband’s onscreen. So ANR garu won my heart even when I was a kid with his STYLE, body language, his very expressive eyes, acting, and the movies he has acted in – one of the genre of movies he excelled very well- social movies. I liked mythological only when he acted in them, but somehow I cannot handle folklore.
I always wonder why he thought he was not handsome. I guess he always was comparing himself with NTR garu, his height and his features. But if he was not handsome, how come he had so much female fan following. I think women always admire romantic heroes. I am a staunch admirer of ANR garu and even I was involved in ANR vs. NTR fights with my friends and school mates and neighbors. I even had a bet with my friends and hadn’t seen the movies of NTR garu for 1 or 2 years. This was when I was 10 or 11 years old. I loved ANR garu. My heart always beats for him. PERIOD.
So why do I admire and adore him?
As I have mentioned earlier, I was not brought up in the digital age, even the TV was at its infancy when I moved to New York. I lived in an age when calling to India was $3 + per minute. When my husband was on business trips to India for a month or so, my telephone bill was more than the price of the air ticket. The media were not so wild in those days. So our connection to cinema or to our idols was only through movies and magazines. We were not exposed to gossip magazines. So the domain of our knowledge about our idols is very limited. Very rarely we got to know about their private lives. After I came to US in 1980, for a few years I completely lost track with Telugu movies until video cassette era started. And later the trend started in US to screen some Telugu movies with popular casting in the theatres. With the volcanic eruption of Internet, and the social media web sites, everything seems to be happening in our backyard. And we are able to get the flashing news much earlier than millions of people living in India. And we are able to watch any Telugu movie in the theatres even before the people in Andhra Pradesh does. But what this technology does – some good and some bad too. So with this technology boom, I came to know more and more about him and my domain of his information is widening. About his life style, family values, simplicity, determination, dedication, hard work, discipline, his command over any subject, his memory, his fitness, his rational thinking, his frankness to express any opinion, his humor, everything about him. He can literally speak on any subject. In an interview “jayapradam” with Jaya Prada, she asked him where she should start the interview with and he said she could start at any point in his life and he is ready to answer. I can not but appreciate his memory power. His interviews were always full of valuable information – one small example – his advice to take bath using a bucket and a tumbler so that we could bend at least certain number of times which is a good exercise to the body. I tried that but I could not continue as we are too spoiled and become lazy with modern inventions.
His ‘Gurthukosthunnayi’ series with MaaTV is a master piece. very informative. I bought the VCD set (as DVD set was not available at that time) few years ago but was not interested to watch VCDs because of their poor quality. I haven’t even opened the wrapper. So I bought the DVD set in my last visit to India (2013) and watched the whole series, and I am ashamed to say that it was the first time I heard him sing. His voice was good too.
I am very much touched with the way he had taken care of his wife until her last breath (heard from Nagarjuna’s interviews) and how as parents they kept the whole family together and made the bondage stronger among them. Who can not be impressed looking at his journey from paddy fields to the field of Fine Arts. Who can not be amazed at his knowledge without even had proper education. Who can not be astonished by his achievements without even knowing to greet people with a proper ‘namaskaram’. Who can not be awed with his rational thinking. who can not be dumbfounded with his command over English. Who can not be astounded when he answered that the death of his doctor who met with an accident when the doctor was accompanying Annapurna garu and their eldest son, Venkat for Venkat’s treatment for a question in one of his interviews about a sad moment in his life. Very heart touching when he had his own personal tragedies.
On 19 October 2013, when Sumanth has announced on social media web sites to watch a press meet by ANR at a certain time, no one has expected to hear this shocking news. He has earned a lot of respect for being an upfront and candid person, both personally and professionally. In a similar vein, he wanted to share true facts about his condition before everyone jumps to conclusion about his health. He sounded wise when he tried to reduce the big impact of the news by saying he lived a full life without any regrets. For some reason, I was very confident that he would fight this one too as had fought his two heart surgeries. But it seems God has a better plan for him.
Coincidentally he passed away on the same day (21 Jan US time, 22 Jan India time) my husband passed away six years ago and their funerals also fell on the same day (23 Jan).
Thanks to Maa TV for their live broadcast of the homage to ANR garu and his last rites. I could hardly sleep for two days. Even though I know death is inevitable for anyone and also knowing that he had a complete life, still I am helpless to convince my heart of that bitter truth. I too cried along with the family members, very depressed and dejected, could not focus on anything, felt very lonely. Still feeling very heavy in my heart. I know he lives eternally in his admirer’s hearts. We could clearly see his and Annapurna garu’s upbringing in his children’s and his grand children’s behaviour by treating the person who has been with ANR garu for several years (I am not sure how many) as a family member and had him part of all of ANR garu’s final rites. Akkineni legacy should continue….
You will be remembered very dearly for your valuable CONTRIBUTION for ever !
After seeing and experiencing so much of his life in his own words and his actions, how can I not ADMIRE and ADORE him.