Indian cinema not on par with world's: Nageswara Rao

Chennai, Sep 19 (IANS) The Indian film industry is yet to find a place amid world cinema even as it celebrates its centenary year, rues one of the country's acting legends, Akkineni Nageswara Rao (ANR), who turns 90 Friday.

"It is unfortunate that we haven't found a place yet in world cinema. It's a great loss to the industry that produces maximum number of films in the world. In the global film festival circuit, we are not well noted due to the quality of our products, which do not cover global markets," Nageswara Rao told IANS in an interview.

"Our penetration in the global film market is also quite low vis-a-vis Hollywood. Going forward, we need to become experimental and create content that can attract global audiences," he added.

Looking back at his 70-year-old career comprising a filmography of over 250, he said two persons deserve to be credited for his success and fame.

"My mother has been my biggest inspiration in life. She encouraged me to pursue theatre at a very young age. My biggest influence has been filmmaker Ghantasala Balaramaiah, who picked me from the Bezawada (Now Vijayawada) railway platform and signed me as a lead for his film 'Sitarama Jananam' in 1944," he said.

Even though he shifted base to Hyderabad many decades ago, he owes his career to Madras (now Chennai).

"Madras will always have a special place in my heart. Since films in southern India were made in Madras back then, it was a natural choice for anyone to move there. I spent my initial years there and also acted in a few Tamil films. I still remember walking through the city for a cup of coffee many years ago," he said.

"The love and appreciation I got from that place helped me grow and sustain in the industry," said Nageswara Rao, who has starred in Tamil films such as "Anbumagan", "Kanal Neer" and "Pen Manam".

Why didn't you do more Tamil films?

"I moved to Andhra Pradesh because as an actor I wanted longevity and I also wanted my children to learn and speak their mother tongue (Telugu). My son (Nagarjuna) is an actor because he can read, write and speak in Telugu. I also thought if I can act in Madras, I can do it in Hyderabad too," he said.

"Film has no boundaries, yet you cater to a certain market and audiences; so it is important you connect with them in a way they expect you as a native of the region. There is also a sense of comfort to work in the region you are brought up in," added the actor, whose Telugu films include titles like "Batasari", "Devadasu" and "Prem Nagar".

Having witnessed the good, bad and ugly side of filmdom, he never had qualms about letting his children be a part of the industry.

"I felt the industry gives you the opportunity to learn as well as be responsible for your actions. I thought my children could learn the same here and therefore I never stopped them from entering the industry. I feel proud today that my children have imbibed these values," he said.

While his son Nagarjuna is a successful actor, his other son and two daughters are into film production.

Was there a moment when you wanted to quit films for good?

"My journey too had ups and downs. But, since I started my career at the age of 19, I didn't have to face any competition and therefore I always enjoyed working in films. When you enjoy what you do, there is no question of quitting, isn't it?" he reasoned.

Nageswara Rao retired as a lead actor years ago, but he still feels connected to the industry.

"I'm involved in many ways in the industry. I always wanted to give back to the industry and hence set up Annapurna Studios and even a film school recently. I'm facing arc lights for my new film 'Manam' with my son and grandson (Naga Chaitanya); so I was never away from the industry," he added.

(Haricharan Pudipeddi can be contacted at haricharanpudipeddi@gmail.com)

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