A bronze statue of Akkineni Nageswara Rao was unveiled at Annapurna Studios, Hyderabad, on September 20, to mark the birth centenary of the legendary actor-producer. Designed meticulously by Chennai-based sculptor Vineesh Vijayan, the statue is a throwback to memories of ANR in his heydays. The statue was unveiled by Venkaiah Naidu, former vice president of India, in the presence of the doyen’s family members including Nagarjuna, Naga Susheela, Amala, Naga Chaitanya, Akhil, Sumanth, Supriya, Sushanth and several dignitaries.
It took Vineesh and his team five months to design the statue, after poring over photographic and video references shared by Naga Susheela, Sumanth and family members. Naga Susheela stated that the sculptor watched Nageswara Rao’s 1961 film Velugu Needalu to observe the minute expressions. The statue underwent several stages of design — 3D model making, 3D printing, clay modelling and the final bronze casting.
The statue stands tall at the studio premises founded by Nageswara Rao and named after his wife, Annapurna. The unveiling marks the beginning of the centenary celebrations of the veteran actor-producer who was born on September 20, 1923.
For those who had gathered at the studio lawns on Wednesday morning, it was an occasion to recall the contribution of Akkineni Nageswara Rao to Indian cinema. “This studio is naana (father) garu’s favourite place and it is befitting to have the statue here,” said actor-producer Nagarjuna Akkineni. He stated that until the statue was unveiled, he refrained from looking at it since he would have to accept that his father was no more. “I believe that ANR lives on in our memories.”
Nagarjuna recalled the life and times of his father and said, “He led a glorious life. The world knows him as a remarkable actor who gave us memorable films and won several awards. He continues to be loved by Telugu people. As a family, we knew him as someone who filled our hearts with love. We would visit him during good and bad times and feel comforted in his presence.”
DGP Anjani Kumar, T Subbirami Reddy, director SS Rajamouli, music composer MM Keeravani, producers Allu Aravind, Dil Raju and Ashwini Dutt, actors Mohan Babu, Brahmanandam, Mahesh Babu and Namrata, Ram Charan, Nani, Vishnu Manchu, Jagapathi Babu, Jayasudha, Anupam Kher, Nasser, Rajendra Prasad and several personalities were part of the event.
Venkaiah Naidu recalled his conversations with ANR and commended the late actor’s contribution to Telugu language and cinema. Mohan Babu recalled attending a 100-day celebration of ANR’s film as a student in Tirupati and years later getting the opportunity to be associated with him in cinema.
Brahmanandam won hearts when he imitated ANR’s mannerisms, complete with a raised eyebrow, and delivered a dialogue from Prem Nagar (1974). Rajamouli recalled an interaction with ANR during which he had asked the legendary actor why he chose to do a supporting part in Missamma when he was a superstar. ANR had responded that he sought to do the part wanting a change of image since he was getting characters of alcohol-consuming leading man post Devadasu. Rajamouli also pointed out how ANR, despite being an atheist, poured life into devotional and mythological stories.
Naga Chaitanya, who shared the screen with his grandfather ANR in Manam and also portrayed the part of ANR in a cameo in the Savitri biopic Mahanati, stated that the creative risks taken by his grandfather is a case study for students in film schools and he, too, is a student learning from his grandfather’s career and films. “The studio proves how one man’s extraordinary vision became a reality. It teaches me not to be afraid to dream. The statue is a tribute to his legacy.”
The event was attended by scores of film buffs who had travelled from different cities to pay tribute to ANR.