Did you know that constant criticism from the outside world drove legendary actor Akkineni Nageswara Rao to be more determined to learn the English language? In fact, he mastered the language despite having no proper educational background.
Having started his film career as young as 17 years in Dharmapatni (1941), ANR grew as a stalwart of Telugu cinema as he portrayed characters with great aplomb.
On Wednesday, 20 September, Tollywood celebrated the legendary actor’s 100th birth anniversary with the Akkineni family erecting a statue at Annapurna Studios in Hyderabad.
ANR shocks media, friends
Akkineni took it as a challenge to learn English following the advice from director BN Reddy.
Started practising from the basics with Shankarnarayana’s dictionary by his side, ANR would read the English daily The Hindu and make a note of usage. The actor also hired a tutor to teach him the language.
In 1964, when he arrived at the airport after completing a 100-day tour to Europe, he made a jaw-dropping act by speaking to media personnel in English. It lasted an hour — the speech and his diction surprised not only the media but also his close friends and family who were present at the gathering.
Before coming into the mainstream cinema, Akkineni Nageswara Rao performed woman characters during stage shows and theatre plays in Andhra Pradesh’s Gudivada, just before independence. He would earn about ₹5 per show.
A fortunate accident
On one fortunate day, after completing a stage show in Tenali, ANR was heading back to Gudivada.
He arrived to board a train at Bezawada railway station (now Vijayawada). Director-producer Ghantasala Balaramayya, who was travelling in the First-Class compartment, spotted Nageswara Rao and waved at him.
Ghantasala offered Lord Srirama’s role in his upcoming movie titled Sri Seeta Rama Jananam (1942) to ANR. Since then, they both became close.
Interestingly, Ghantasala performed the marriage of Nageswara Rao. Ghantasala happened to be the grandfather of the present-music composer S Thaman.