The man who took on the might of NTR, ANR
Legendary SVR is regarded as one of the finest method actors of Indian cinema. Whatever role he essayed, he used to put his entire heart and soul in it and come out with a stellar performance, thus, overshadowing his colleagues in the process.
Legendary SVR is regarded as one of the finest method actors of Indian cinema. Whatever role he essayed, he used to put his entire heart and soul in it and come out with a stellar performance, thus, overshadowing his colleagues in the process. He matched acting strides with NTR in films like ‘Pandava Vanavasam’ and ‘Sri Krishna Vijayam’ and ANR in films like ‘Veliguneedalu’, ‘Thodi Kodallu’ and ‘Chenchu Lakshmi’.
However, he was a specialist in donning roles with negative shades. For instance, he became a sought after villain after playing the negative role as ‘Nepali Mantrikudu’ and stamped his class as an evil tantric in ‘Pathala Bhairavi’ and didn’t look back from then onwards. Expanding his versatility, he showcased his flair for comedy in the role of Ghathotkacha in ‘Mayabazaar’ and social drama ‘Andaru Dongale’. The song “Vivaha Bhojanambu Vintaina vantakambu” in ‘Maya Bazaar’ is immensely popular even to this day. He became a king in enacting tragic roles in films like ‘Pandanti Kaapuram’ and ‘Nammina Bantu’. In films like ‘Jagat Kiladeelu’ and ‘Jagat Jettilu’ he essayed the role of a suave spy with aplomb.
He delivered the dialogue “Puli Bonulu lo Vvunna Baita Vunna Puli Pulera Dongre” (A tiger is a tiger whether it is in a cage or outside) in his inimitable style while addressing the villain Ravu Gopala Rao. Similarly, his essaying the role of an elder brother in ‘Pandanti Kaapuram’ was quite heart-rending. In fact, the 1950s and 60s belonged to him as far as Telugu films were concerned. An actor par excellence, Samarla Venkata Ranga Rao (S V Ranga Rao or SVR), the legendary actor, was born a hundred years ago on July 3, 1918 at Dowleshwaram in Rajamundry (now Rajahmendravaram), then a part of the Madras presidency at a time when the Frist World War was coming to an end.
After bagging state and national honours, he bagged the prestigious Best Actor award at the Afro-Asian Film Festival held at Jakarta in Indonesia 1963 for his stellar performance as Keechaka in ‘Narthanashala,’. Veteran actor Satyanarayana in an interview said that NTR and SVR had professional rivalry. Citing an instance on the sets of ‘Pandava Vanavasam’ in 1966, he claimed that NTR and SVR had a heated argument over one of the scenes. When NTR asked SVR to repeat the dialogue “Baanisalu” in condescending way once again, SVR shot back “No more” and walked out in a huff. Then the producer and director had to rush to SVR and NTR to pacify them and requested them to complete their movie smoothly. Although at times, NTR and SVR had their professional jealousies and rivalries, they held each other in high esteem.
One of his contemporaries, the late Gummmadi Venkateshwara Rao, a character artiste, said that it was extremely difficult to compete with SVR and he had to put in a lot of effort while acting with him though his performance was pale and nowhere near to that of Ranga Rao by any standards. Veteran actor Satyanarayana, who is regarded as the successor of SVR, said that during his early years as an actor, he used to be extremely scared to act with SVR. In one of the scenes in ‘Aatabommalu,’ SVR was not happy over the way Satyanarayana was delivering the dialogues and got irritated.
He asked him angrily, “How many retakes do you want to deliver that one dialogue?” At this, Satyanarayana became tense and nervous. He told SVR that he would not be able to deliver a single dialogue if he was so angry. Then, SVR took the script and explained to Satyanarayana how to deliver that dialogue, thus, showcasing his interest to promote young actors. SVR died during the making of the film ‘Chakravakam’ at Chennai due to a cardiac arrest on July 18, 1974, leaving a big void in Telugu cinema, which is yet to filled.
BY B Srinivasa Narayana Rao