New Delhi: He has been the doyen of Telugu cinema for the past 75 years adorning variety of roles but veteran A Nageswara Rao rues not playing great Telugu poet Yogi Vemana and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa on the big screen.
"There are two roles that I wanted to do -- The great Telugu poet Yogi Vemana and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. Vemana`s role had immense variety as it tells the story of a boy, who turned rebellious and then became romantic and ultimately he became a poet and yogi.
"Similarly, during one of my breaks in Kerala, I started growing a beard and that`s when I thought I would be able to do justice to the role of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. But no one was ready to experiment with that.
Recently, someone approached me for it but I felt that at this age I may not suit the role so I declined," the Dada Saheb Phalke Awardee told reporters in an interview.
The 89-year-old has contributed more than 75 years of his life to cinema by playing the lead in over 256 Telugu films and 26 Tamil films.
Looking back, Rao, who was instrumental in shifting Telugu film industry from the then Madras to Hyderabad some 40 years ago, says he is happy to be a part of the industry which brought him fame and respect.
"Every journey has difficulties, ups and downs; fortunately for me I did not have to face many ups and downs. I began my journey as a young boy at the age of 19 years," Rao says describing how a chance meeting with Ghantasala Balaramaiah of Pratibha Pictures decided his future.
"He noticed me on the platform of Bajawada railway station and cast me for the role of Kalyanarama in `Sitarama Jananam` film which was released in 1944. Though this is my first film as a hero on the screen, I played a guest role in `Dharmapatni` in 1941 at the age of 15," Rao said.
Talking about his role in shifting the industry to Hyderabad, Rao, who opened Annapurna Studios, one of the foremost motion picture and television production and digital post production facilities in India, said he wanted his children to grow up in Hyderabad.
"As an actor I wanted to maintain longevity and it was also important that my children grow up in Hyderabad so that they can learn their mother tongue Telugu. Also, I thought if I can produce and act in Madras I can do it in Hyderabad too. I also felt that I can survive as an actor in Andhra Pradesh.
Today, my son Nagarjuna is able to act in Telugu Films because he is able to write and read Telugu," Rao said.
ANR, as he is known among his fans, has acted in several landmark Telugu films. Some of his prominent films are `Tenali Rama Krishna`, `Kalidasu`, `Devadasu`, `Mayabazar`, `Missamma`, `Dr Chakravarthi`, `Ardhangi`, `Muga Manasulu`, `Dasara Bullodu`, `Prem Nagar` and `Premabhishekam`, counted as one of the biggest hits in Tollywood.
Rao feels that technically the Southern industry can compete with the film industries globally but it`s market is limited.
"Technically we are equal to any industry globally including Bollywood. Same camera, same technician but we have limitation of viability. Bollywood can experiment because they have world market. Southern markets on the other hand are limited. Southern filmmakers have good subjects and story, but the biggest challenge is the market as we do not have global market as in the case of Bollywood."