Hyderabad, Jan 22: Telugu cinema icon Akkineni Nageswara Rao died Wednesday at the age of 89, plunging the Telugu film industry into gloom. His last rites will be performed here Thursday, his family said.
The cremation will take place at 1 p.m Thursday at Annapurna Studio, which he had set up over 50 years ago.
Andhra Pradesh Minister for Cinematography D.K. Aruna said the actor would be cremated with police honours.
Nageswara Rao, who was battling cancer for the last few months, breathed his last at a private hospital. Family sources said the end came at 12.10 a.m. However, the announcement was made after 2 a.m.
Popularly known as ANR, the thespian is survived by three daughters and two sons, including popular actor Nagarjuna.
Film personalities, politicians, eminent citizens from various walks of life besides hundreds of mourners made a beeline at Annapurna Studio to pay their last respects to the doyen of Telugu cinema.
His son Nagarjuna, standing beside the casket and trying to be composed since morning, broke down when some yesteryears actors, including actress-turned-politician Jayasudha, wept while recalling their association with the late actor.
The body was kept at Annapurna Studio since morning to enable people to pay their last respects. Agreeing to a request from the film fraternity, his family late in the evening decided to perform the last rites at the studio, which he had built to pave way for the shifting of the Telugu film industry from Chennai to Hyderabad.
Movie Artists Association president Murali Mohan called for a total shutdown of the film industry Thursday to mourn ANR's death. He also called for closure of all film theatres across the state.
"It is a sad day not just for Telugu and Indian cinema but for world cinema. I don't think there was any actor in the world who was (around) 90 but was still acting," said Murali Mohan, a veteran actor.
ANR was the last of the most popular first generation actors of Telugu cinema and was considered one of the two all-time greats of Telugu cinema, the other being N.T. Rama Rao (NTR) who died in 1996.
Born Sep 20, 1924, in a poor family in Venkata Raghavapuram in Krishna district, ANR began acting in theatre when he was just nine. A school dropout, who once revealed that he used to walk barefoot in Gudivada, rose to dizzy heights of stardom.
Rao's was truly a rags-to-riches story. He made his cinematic debut in 1941 Telugu film "Dharmapatni" with a brief role, and in 1944 he was picked up from the platform of Bezawada (now Vijayawada) railway station and signed on to play the lead role in Telugu drama "Sitarama Jananam". He became famous with "Devadasu".
In a career spanning nearly 75 years, the Dadasaheb Phalke award winner acted in about 255 films, including 20 Tamil and one Hindi movie.
Before he fell ill, he was shooting for a film titled "Manam" with his son Nagarjuna and grandson Naga Chaitanya.
He will be remembered for films like "Mayabazar", "Dr. Chakravarthy", "Muga Manasulu", "Sudigundaalu", "Antastulu" and "Meghasandesam", "Batasari", "Laila Majnu", "Anarkali", "Premabhishekham" and "Prema Nagar".
ANR had called a press conference in October 2013 to announce that he was diagnosed with cancer but said he has a strong will and wants to live up to 100 years with the wishes of his fans.
He was recipient of many awards, including the Padma Vibushan, the second highest civilian award in India, and the Dada Saheb Phalke Award, the highest individual lifetime achievement award for films.
Both houses of the Andhra Pradesh legislature condoled the death of ANR. The lawmakers in assembly and council observed two-minute silence as a mark of respect.
Andhra Pradesh Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan, Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, Tamil Nadu Governor K. Rosaiah, Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha and leaders of various political parties condoled the death of the veteran actor.