60 years of versatility

60 years of versatility
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Highlights

The 1950s saw many new comers knocking on the doors of the film industry and he was one of the many. In his debut film, he was paired with actress Jamuna as a protagonist but as the luck would have it, ‘Sipayi Kuturu’ (1959) tanked at the box office. The 24-year-old actor was then limited to bit part roles in the subsequent movies. 

In a career spanning nearly six decades, Kaikala Satyanarayana acted in 800 plus films. The versatile actor, who turned 82 this July 25, is an icon who made an indelible mark on Telugu cine industry

The 1950s saw many new comers knocking on the doors of the film industry and he was one of the many. In his debut film, he was paired with actress Jamuna as a protagonist but as the luck would have it, ‘Sipayi Kuturu’ (1959) tanked at the box office. The 24-year-old actor was then limited to bit part roles in the subsequent movies.

A year later, ‘Janapada Brahma’ B Vithalacharya, who was planning a movie with Kanta Rao as lead, was in search for a villain. With the sudden death of R Nageswara Rao, who was famed for negative roles, there was a void in the industry.

He approached then the 25-year-old actor, who made his debut as a hero a year ago. “R Nageswara Rao passed away, Mukkamala is getting old and Rajanala cannot be in every film. There are many heroes and the competition is fierce. However, there are very few villains, make a mark here,” Vithalacharya said while persuading the actor to play the role of antagonist.

The director had his way and when ‘Kanakadurga Pooja Mahima’ (1960) was released, it introduced a new villain – Kaikala Satyanarayana.

And then there was no looking back since for the versatile actor. Though he played an antagonist opposite Kanta Rao, it was the combination with NT Rama Rao that gave Telugu cine-goers a formidable hero-villain duo.

Not only that, Satyanarayana was seen playing dupe to NT Rama Rao in ‘Ramudu Bheemudu’ (1964). He can be easily spotted in the climax. As the legend goes, Satyanarayana was then finding his foot as a villain and the makers of the film thought that as he and NTR have same height and physique, why not use him as a body double.

Satyanarayana always tried hard not to be typecast in films and his efforts bore fruit in ‘Ummadi Kutumbam’ (1967). NTR, the producer of the film wanted Satyanarayana to play third among the four brothers, which is a villainous character. However, Satyanarayana persuaded him to give him the character of the second brother, which runs on pathos as a primary emotion. His conviction convinced NTR and his portrayal of the character was lauded by audience and critics alike.

This changed the way industry looked at Satyanarayana, he was no longer a formidable villain but a character actor that can play any role and portray a myriad of emotions that a character demands. Following the commercial and critical success of the movie, apart from roping Satyanarayana in villainous roles, writers and directors started to write a different type of roles that made him prove his mettle as an actor.

Satyanarayana had a relentless drive to prove himself as a versatile actor. Transition into character actor roles was not enough, he wanted to try his hand at comedy and for that, he had to wait another six years. In 1973, when actor Krishna was producing ‘Devudu Chesina Manushulu’, he roped in Satyanarayana in a comic role and it was a hit with the audience.

Legendary actor SV Ranga Rao, who played the role of father of NTR and Krishna in the movie, was so impressed with Satyanarayana’s performance that he drove to the studio where Satyanarayana was shooting and heaped lavish price on him. “I dominate all other actors in any movie, I act. This is the only movie where I stand second, you are the first,” the legendary actor said to Satyanarayana.

With the passing away of SV Ranga Rao in 1974, there was a huge void to fill in the industry. Satyanarayana was up to fill the void. After SVR’s death, the roles which the late actor used to play, were then being offered to Satyanarayana. Despite constant comparison to the legendary actor, Satyanarayana has created his own image as a versatile performer.

Later, he moved on to comedic villain roles. His turn as Nagaraju in NTR starrer ‘Adavi Ramudu’ (1977) was one of the most memorable comedic villain roles.

1977 remains a memorable year for Satyanarayana as his turn as Lord Yama in NTR starrer ‘Yama Gola’ created a new image altogether for the actor. Even though actors like SVR and NTR played the roles of Yama, they have not managed to strike a chord with the audience as Satyanarayana did. He reprised the role in SV Krishna Reddy’s ‘Yamaleela’ (1994) and more recently in Ravi Teja - starrer ‘Daruvu’ (2012).

Satyanarayana tryst with characters from mythology started early in his career, though he played the role Karna in ‘Sri Krisharjuna Yudham’ (1963), Rukmi in ‘Sri Krishna Pandaveeyam’ (1966) and Duryodhana in ‘Sri Krishnavataram’ (1967), he is remembered for his turn as Yama. Like SV Ranga Rao is Keechaka, NTR is Duryodhana, Satyanarayana is Yama for Telugu audience. Not many would have known but Satyanarayana played all mythological characters that NTR played, barring Rama and Krishna.

He was very active until the 2000s playing varied roles. His turn as a doting grandfather in Mahesh Babu starrer ‘Murari’ (2001) won him many accolades but made him typecast in similar roles. He was last seen in ‘Daruvu’ (2012). The actor, who turned 82 on July 25 is taking a well-earned break from the movies.

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