Prominent Telugu actor Krishna passed away on Tuesday. He was admitted to a private hospital following a cardiac arrest and after intense treatment was declared dead at 4.09am. He was 79-years-old. He is survived by four children including Tollywood star Mahesh Babu.
Tributes poured in for the veteran actor from all quarters. PM Narendra Modi tweeted lauding him for “winning hearts of people through his versatile acting and lively personality”. Kollywood superstar Rajinikant and Chiranjeevi also took to twitter to convey their respects to the departed actor.
Ghattamaneni Shivarama Krishna Murthy, popularly called Krishna was a Telugu actor who starred in over 300 films. Having played minor roles in films like Kula Gothralu (1961), Padandi Munduku (1962), Krishna entered the fray as a lead actor with the film Thene Manasulu (1965). Krishna is notable as an actor who changed the landscape of Telugu films in the mid-60s when they were mythological oriented. He starred in the first James Bond style film, Gudachari 116, a major hit. He further starred in other films of the genre such as James Bond 777 (1971), Agent Gopi (1978), Gudachari 117 (1989) which earned him the title ‘James Bond of Tollywood’. He is also said to have championed the cowboy genre in Telugu for the first time when he starred in Mosagallaku Mosagadu (1971) under his home banner Sri Padmalaya films.
He is most known for his portrayal of Alluri Sitarama Raju in the eponymous film in 1974. The recent Telugu blockbuster RRR of S S Rajamouli was also built on the life of Alluri Sitarama Raju as one of the film’s protagonists. He starred in several multi-starrers in the 60s and early 70s with already established stars such as N T Rama Rao (Stree Janma, Niluvu Dopidi, Vichitra Kutumbam) and A Nageshwara Rao (Manchi Kutumbam, Akka Chellelu). His relationship with NTR strained big-time when his mythological project Kurukshetram (1977) clashed with NTR’s Magnum Opus Daana Veera Soora Karna (1977), both made on the subject of the Indian epic Mahabharata and Krishna refused to give in. Both films were commercial successes. Their differences came to the fore when Krishna was vocal about the failures of the Telugu Desam Party’s (TDP) governance in Andhra in the mid-80s.
Krishna was notable for his pioneering influence on Telugu films even on the technical front. His film Eenadu (1982) was the first Telugu film in Eastman colour. He also directed, produced and starred in Simhasanam (1986), the first 70 mm stereophonic sound movie in Telugu. Many of his films in the 1980s were remade by Jeetendra in Hindi including Himmatwala (1983), a remake of Ooruki Monagadu (1981). Himmatwala is notable as it provided Sridevi with her first major break. He also holds the record for starring in maximum films with the same heroine – 48 with Vijaya Nirmala (his second wife) and 47 with Jayaprada.
Krishna shone on the directorial front as well, debuting through the blockbuster film Simhasanam (1986) in which he played the lead role. He directed 17 films overall including blockbusters such as Mugguru Kodukulu, Kodaku Diddina Kapuram, and Anna Thammudu. He was also into politics, winning a Lok Sabha election from Eluru constituency in 1989 on a Congress ticket. He was awarded the NTR National award in 2003 and was also a recipient of the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian award in 2009. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by Andhra University in 2008.