The Legendary Actress – Anjali Devi

The Legendary Actress – Anjali Devi

The Legendary Actress – Anjali Devi, About Actress Anjali Devi. Another film that I was deeply impressed by Anjali's acting was 'Jayasimha'. It was...

When I came to know that veteran actress Anjali Devi breathed her last on January 13, my heart missed a beat. I was an ardent fan of Anjali during my student days. A cine magazine of those days called ‘Kinema’ used to ask its readers to write about their favourite actors or actresses. Taking the cue I wrote an article on Anjali Devi and sent to it. I hadn’t expected that it would be printed at all as I was a kid studying 8th class. To my pleasant surprise it was published with a beautiful photograph of Anjali Devi.

During 1950s & 60s, three actresses were cynosure of Telugu tinsel world. They were Bhanumathi, Anjali and Savithri. Bhanumathi was not only an actress but also singer, writer and director too in her own right. Because of this versatility she was regarded as a unique personality though viewed simply as an actress but not on par with Anjali or Savithri. Savithri was of course one of the most natural actresses that Telugu screen or for that matter the Indian screen ever had. Among these highly talented triumvirate, Anjali could impress the spectators for quite a long time by playing kind and positive roles in film after film. During her early days in films, she played heroine roles with NTR and ANR, the eternal heroes of those days. Afterwards, she started playing character roles in the middle age. She was a good dancer too. In films like 'Suvarna Sundari', 'Jayabheri' and in many other films, she impressed the audience with her beautiful dances.

First film that established Anjali Devi as a competent actress was 'Ilavelupu'. In this film she acts as the lover of ANR and later as his mother which was quite a challenging role. Owing to the circumstances she had to marry ANR's father, thus becoming the mother of her erstwhile lover. Anjali could express her feelings excellently both as lover and as mother. This film was directed by Yoganand and was supervised by the doyen of Telugu tinsel world, LV Prasad. Ilavelupu was a big hit. Buoyed by this success, LV Prasad remade this film into Hindi as 'Sharada' in which Rajkapoor and Meena Kumari played the leading roles. It was a big success in Hindi too.

Another film that I was deeply impressed by Anjali's acting was 'Jayasimha'. It was made under NTR’s own production house National Art Theatre. NTR's first two films made under this banner 'Thodu Dongalu' and 'Pitchi Pullaiah' did poorly at the box office. With a view to produce a blockbuster, NTR shifted to folklore genre and Anjali Devi was chosen as heroine. Anjali first falls in love with NTR, who played the role of a prince in distress. But she loses her lover to Waheeda Rahman. Jayasimha was Waheeda Rahman's first break into films though she did a dance number in 'Rojulumarai'. It was Anjali who had stolen the show in 'Jayasimha' first as lover of NTR and later as his saviour by making supreme sacrifice. Jayasimha was a big hit and one of the reasons assigned was Anjali's commendable acting.

Another most memorable film of Anjali was 'Suvarna Sundari' produced under her own banner-Anjali Pictures. Though ANR was its hero, it was Anjali who had borne the entire film on her shoulders. The music in Suvarna Sundari was legendary. Adi Narayana Rao was a veteran music director, composed the scintillating music for this film. Of course Adinarayana Rao was none other than Anjali's husband. The song 'Hai Haiga amani sage' was a big hit not only in Telugu but in all other Indian languages as Suvarna Sundari was dubbed into many other Indian languages. When I met a Gujarathi writer in Kolkata, he told me that he was a great lover of Telugu songs particularly the songs of Suvarna Sundari. He particularly mentioned the song 'Hai haiga Amani Saage' and told me that he listens this song as frequently as possible and opined that no Indian language is as sweet as Telugu. That was the phenomenal success of the music composed by Adi Narayana Rao and altogether it was Anjali's film though ANR was its hero. When Anjali shifted to character roles, she again lived in the roles with a flourish. She played the role of an aged house wife in 'Badi Panthulu' to perfection. NTR was her aged husband who played the role of a retired school teacher. Both Anjali and NTR evoke tears as their children abandon them to their fate when they were in dire need of their support and affection. The Telugu cine-goers can never forget Anjali as 'Seetha' in 'Lava Kusha'. She again lived in the role of Seetha – she almost looked as the incarnation of Seetha in this film. She then became popular as Telugu vaari Seethamma as this film was watched by almost all the Telugu cine goers. 'Lava Kusha' was a phenomenal success at box office because of the extraordinary performance of NTR as Rama and Anjali as Sita.

In many other films like Charana Dasi, 'Sati Savithri', ‘Bhakta Thukaram’, 'Panduranga Mahatyam', Anjali excelled in the roles of a devoted house wife.

It is pity that Telugu tinsel world losing acclaimed actors like Srihari, AVS, Dharmavarapu Subrahmanyam, Uday Kiran and now legendary actress Anjali Devi who was a friend, philosopher and guide to many of her contemporary actors like Jamuna, Krishna Kumari and others. Hailing from a poor downtrodden family of Peddapuram of East Godavari district Anjali could achieve such an immortal stature by her sheer talent, hard work and discipline. Undoubtedly she stands an example and inspiration to all the budding stars of the present and may her soul rest in peace.

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