Nageswara Rao, popularly known as ANR among his fans, died on Wednesday at the age of 91 after losing his battle with cancer. (Agencies)
Born in a humble agrarian family in Krishna district of coastal Andhra Pradesh in 1924, he had a brush with theatre at a tender age before making his debut in early 1940s with the film 'Dharmapatni' in which he enacted the role of a woman.
A stalwart in his own right, he went on to act in around 250 films, including some in Tamil and Hindi, in a career spanning seven decades and was the recipient of several coveted awards including the Dada Saheb Phalke Award.
Nageswara Rao, a contemporary of towering south Indian heroes like M G Ramachandran and Sivaji Ganesan, had gained the stature equal to that of N T Rama Rao in Telugu film industry.
While N T Rama Rao was popular with the mass audience, Nageswara Rao made a name for himself by playing a variety of roles, which were liked by the educated middle-classes, besides doing mythological and folk films. He started off with playing female roles on stage and in films in the earlier stage of his career as women were not allowed to act in those days.
Nageswara Rao had played a key role in the Telugu film industry shifting its base from Chennai to Hyderabad.
A strict disciplinarian in real life, Nageswara Rao earned kudos for his poignant portrayal of an alcoholic and jilted lover in films like 'Devdas', 'Prem Nagar' and 'Premabhishekam'.
He immortalised the character of 'Devdas' in the Telugu film based on the novel of acclaimed Bengali author Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya.
Nageswara Rao, popularly known as ANR among his fans, died on Wednesday at the age of 91 after losing his battle with cancer.