Akkineni Nageswara Rao, who scaled the peaks of Telugu cinema rivalling N T Rama Rao in stature between 50s and 70s, died here today after losing his battle with cancer.
Popularly known as ANR, the 91-year-old thespian mesmerised generations of audiences with a variety of roles and memorable performances in hits like 'Batasari', 'Devadas' and 'Tenali Ramakrishna' in a career spanning more than seven decades.
Rao recently completed shooting for his home production 'Manam' (Us) which stars three generations of the family - himself, Nagarjuna and grandson Naga Chaitanya.
In fact, dubbing facilities had been set up at his residence as he wanted to do it himself, family sources said.
A Dada Saheb Phalke award winner, he had acted in more than 250 films, including a few in Tamil. He was instrumental in bringing Telugu filmmaking to Hyderabad from Madras that was home to film production in all south Indian languages.
He established Annapurna Studios, named after his wife, who died in 2011.
Nageswara Rao had a lively chat with family members last night and passed away in his sleep, the legendary actor's son Nagarjuna, a popular hero, said.
He was rushed to the super-speciality Care Hospitals at Banjara Hills here in the small hours, where the doctors declared him dead.
Rao, who recently underwent a surgery for intestinal cancer, is survived by three daughters and two sons.
Known for his strong will power and positive attitude, Nageswara Rao himself declared his illness to the public last year and appealed to the fans to take it in their stride.
The body of Nageswara Rao was kept at Annapurna Studios, established by him, to enable people to pay their last respects.
Rao, who had a stature on par with late N T Rama Rao, was one of the earliest stars of the black and white era.
Born in Krishna district of Coastal Andhra Pradesh, he started his career as a stage artiste and made his film debut in early 1940s with 'Dharmapatni', in which he acted as a woman.
He went on to give huge hits such as 'Batasari', 'Devadas' and 'Prem Nagar', 'Tenali Ramakrishna', 'Maya Bazaar', 'Missamma' and 'Sitaramayya gari Manavaralu'.
He earned fame for his poignant portrayal of 'Devadas' in the film based on the novel of acclaimed Bengali author Sarat Chandra Chatterjee.
Dilip Kumar, who played Devdas in the Bimal Roy's Hindi remake, had remarked that there was only one Devdas and that is Nageswara Rao.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, Opposition leader N Chandrababu Naidu, YSR Congress president Y S Jaganmohan Reddy and several other leaders and film personalities condoled his death.
Several film personalities paid their last respects to the departed soul.
Unusual for a man to live that long.
He led a truly amazing life, a role model for all. Even at the age of 90+ he showed no signs of frailty of either the body or the mind.
ANR garu, RIP.
A good actor. But I always loved his dance and NTR's!!!!!!!!! No one else has repeated the steps these two have made in movies.
A true legend and a good man. RIP.