This was probably the grandest ANR Award ceremony. But there was a poignancy about the evening. He was not there. This was the first award conferred since Mr. Akkineni Nageswarar Rao left this world. Nothing would have made him happier than the award being given to Amitabh Bachchan. Mr. Nageswara Rao admired his talent and advised Nagarjuna, when he was making his debut as an actor, to watch Mr. Bachchan’s films as an exemplar . Even through the pain of his last days, it was AB’s films that kept ANR entertained. It is only fitting that the film icon of India received this prestigious award this year.
The award, presented by the ANR International Foundation, is unique. It is perhaps the only one instituted by an actor to honour the people whose contribution to cinema was invaluable. To call him just an actor would be an unpardonable understatement. He has been on the silver screen for a record 75 years, the longest career span of any actor in the world. He essayed over 250 roles, yet he was more than an actor. He produced films, built a studio, and set up an international film school. Added to this, he was a game changer; the prime mover in the shifting of the Telugu Film Industry to Hyderabad from Chennai. If today Hyderabad is home to the country’s most prolific film industry, we can send up a silent thanks to Mr. Akkineni Nageswara Rao.
Any person would have been satisfied with what he had achieved. But not ANR. He wanted to honour the outstanding people who contributed consistently to the industry he so loved, the industry that made him what he was. When he instituted the ANR Award, he expressed a wish that his children and their children would continue this homage to cinema even after he was gone. In this resplendent yet elegant ceremony, the children were telling him proudly, “ANR lives on — in us.”