VISHWA NATA CHAKRAVARTHI SVR

Since decades, Telugu audience has been listening, using and sharing the popular dialogue "SahsamSeyaraDhimbhaka". Though the dialogue came out decades ago, the power  it has , remains the same even today. The craze for this dialogue has not diminished over the years and generations.  The dialogue is from  1951 film ‘Patala Bhairavi’and the dialogue was delivered by the great actor, ‘Vishwa Nata Chakravarti’ ‘SVR’, i.e., S.V Rangarao. His full name is "Samarla Venkata Ranga Rao".

What an amazing dialogue ! Not just one, there are

many more wonderful dialogues that the legendary actor delivered with ease and captivated the Telugu audience. SVR used to easily recite many Sanskrit expressions and Telugu poems which were very difficult to utter properly. His acting was like an electric current passing by. He used to make himself the best fit for any given character, be it mythical, social, or action. SVR used to change his body language to suit the character and pronunciation of the dialogues. His character  as a "Nepalese magician" in the movie ‘Paatala Bhairavi’  is remembered by many even today and no other  actor would do more  justification to that character. He created a bench mark to the role of the magician. He made a strong impression on the audience with his mesmerizing expressions and ease of conveying different emotions. He very well knew where to increase the tone and when to drop the pitch to enhance his dialogue. No Tollywood fan could ever forget the role of 'Ghatotkachudu' played by him in the film 'Maya Bazaar'.There are many more examples to quote,  such  a great actor he was.

S.V. Ranga Rao was born on 3 July 1918 in Nuzividu Town, Krishna District. His father Samarla Koteshwara Rao worked as an excise inspector in Nuzividu. His mother's name was Lakshmi Narasayamma and his grandfather's name was Ranga Rao. SVR's mother was a great devotee of Lord Venkateswara Swami. The couple added  his grandfather’s name and Lord Venkateswara Swamy’s name together to name  their son as Venkata Ranga Rao. SVR spent his entire childhood in Nuzividu. After the death of SVR’s grandfather, their family moved to Madras for his father’s employment. SVR's primary education was completed in Madras where he passed SSLC from Hindu College. He had been very active since childhood, and participated in every competition held at the school. He stood ahead of everyone else in cultural and oratory competitions. SVR was interested in fine arts and acting . For the first time he was cast in a play at the Hindu college. He played an assistant to the magician in the play. When the play was over the headmaster along with the rest of the teachers and his friends were pleasantly shocked with his amazing performance. They admired him for his wonderful act. The applause and compliments appeared to be very strange for SVR. He wondered why they were praising him so much as he played in a very small role. Moreover, he also thought he acted casually. But SVR did not know that he had unknowingly immersed himself in the role. After that, SVR was cast in every play that happened at his school. The audience response to each play increased exponentially. It was as if the audience had already understood what his future was going to be.

After passing Intermediate from AVN College in Visakhapatnam, SVR’s family came to Kakinada because of his father’s transfer. There he joined B. Sc  in PR Government College. He also started acting in plays in Kakinada just like he did in Visakhapatnam. SVR gained more acting skills here. He was more proficient in English than his fellow students. So, he was mostly interested in acting in Shakespeare plays. SVR used to recite both Telugu poems and English dialogues with ease. Therefore, he was seen performing both English plays as well as Telugu plays. It was during this time that he came in contact with celebrities in the field of Telugu drama, such as Bellari Raghava and Govindaraju Subbarao.

SVR considered them his idols in acting and dialogue diction. He took membership in a drama club called ‘Young Men’s Happy Club’ in Kakinada. He was introduced to Relangi, Anjali Devi, B.A. Subbarao and Adinarayana Rao there. All of them went from village to village and performed in plays. SVR was more interested in playing different roles than playing the same roles. In the play 'Peshwa Narayana Rao Vadha', he took everyone by surprise by playing the role of a sixty-year-old. By then, SVR was only twenty-two years of age.

SVR garu completed his B. Sc  from PR College while acting in plays and started off earning a name for himself  in the theater. After that he had two ways to choose from, one was his dream of acting, and the other was to take up a job. He chose to go with the first option -  theater and acting. But, SVR’s family members were not very convinced with his choice. SVR’s father Koteshwara Rao was an excise officer and his grandfather Kotayya Naidu was a renowned doctor in Nuzividu Hospital. His Uncle Badeti Venkata Ramaiah was a political leader and lawyer. And entering the theater with such a family background was not something they liked. But, SVR ignored this and acted in dramas.

SVR’s family kept telling him that not all days are the same in the field of acting and they tried to persuade him to back out and do a  job or pursue M. Sc. At that time, a fire officer, who was a fan of SVR’s acting, advised him to join the fire department. He thought it was better to work in the fire department and earn salary rather than studying M.Sc. SVR joined the fire department, hoping to act in  his favorite plays in his spare time. He started his first job in the harbour and was later transferred to Vijayanagaram. Everything was fine. He had a job, and was earning salary every month. But, he could not act in plays as he had hoped. He had a lot of free time as a fire officer but he was not permitted to do plays. He decided to resign from  the job and pursue his dream.

SVR was more passionate about acting and his relatives were aware of this fact. B.V. Ramanandam, a film producer and director, who was a distant relative of SVR asked if he would act as the male lead in the upcoming film "Varudhini". In spite of knowing that film industry and the theater industry were quite different, he immediately okayed the opportunity that knocked at his door as he was feeling bad for distancing himself from acting.

The shooting took place in Salem, Tamil Nadu and SVR was given seven hundred and fifty rupees for ninety days.  SVR, who had been performing on stage all these days, found film shooting to be a very different experience. SVR played the role of Pravarakhyudu in this film where Varudhini would approach him asking him to love her. The romance between the characters was intense and SVR was very embarrassed to act like that. So far SVR had not acted with females, even in the theater as female characters were played by men during those days. So, SVR was not able to concentrate fully on his acting as there were romantic scenes in it. Anyways, he tried to complete the shooting with the encouragement of director BV Ramanandam.

Finally, the film was released in 1946 and it did not do so well as expected. The film did not bring any recognition to SVR. With that he never got a chance again. He was highly disappointed and went back to Jamshedpur in search of a job and joined Tata company as a budget assistant. But this time, he did not leave acting completely. He started performing in the Andhra Association, a drama art body founded by all Andhras in Jamshedpur. He also entertained the audience there by his performances as Karna and Durvasana.

SVR got married after joining the job at Tata. He married Lilavati, the daughter of his uncle Badeti Venkata Ramaiah.SVR was working in Jamshedpur and  was also acting in plays. His life was sailing smoothly. The only pain he had was that he couldn’t make it big in the film industry. SVR believed in the philosophy that when entering a field, one should fight hard till he or she succeeds and should not come out before that. SVR did not believe that he did justice to his film and wanted to give it another try and prove himself this time. SVR often spoke to people he knew in the film industry in Madras.

Days were passing by without any major events happening and suddenly, SVR got a call to play the role of a villain in the movie ‘Palleturi Pilla’ directed by B.V. Subbarao. SVR’s happiness upon receiving the call knew no bounds and he hoped that this opportunity will make him stand out in the industry. By the time he was ready to leave for Madras, he got sad news that his father Koteshwara Rao passed away in Dhavaleswaram. SVR was frustrated when he heard that news. After resigning from his job, he immediately went home, completed all his activities there and left for Madras, where he learnt that the role of villain in which he was supposed to act was given to another actor named A.V.Subba Rao. He was disappointed again but director B.A. Subba Rao noticed SVR’s situation and gave another short role in the same movie. SVR was determined to find his future here and worked hard for opportunities.

SVR had known L.V. Prasad and when he got the news that the latter was making a film called 'Drohi', SVR approached him for a role. He was again disappointed to know that the last role in the film was already offered to Rallabandi Kutumba Rao just the previous day. Later, he went for a character in the movie "Mana Desam" which was being produced by actress Krishnaveni. But, he faced the same situation that actors were already finalized with all the main characters. L.V. Prasad directed this film as well. He saw SVR and gave a small role in the film. Later he got a small role in the movie 'Tirugubatu' directed by P.Pullayya.

In 1950, Nagireddy and Chakrapani co-founded Vijaya Productions, a film production company. The first film to be made by the company was "Shaukaru". The film was made with legendary Telugu stars playing the lead roles. Shaukaru Janaki was signed as the heroine,  she got her name from this movie. N.T. Rama Rao,Govindarajula Subbarao and Padmanabhan were playing the lead roles. In this, SVR got the role of "SunnamRangadu". A rowdy character who works for a money lender named Chengayya and goes to those who do not pay interest and collects interest forcibly. The reason for getting this role is because of the director L.V. Prasad, who saw SVR’s difficulty of getting roles and referred his name to Nagi Reddy and Chakrapani. That's how SVR got the character in the movie. It was a small role but SVR got a turning point with this in his film career.

Later, he acted in a small role in the movie 'Akashraju'. Vijaya Productions was all set to produce their second film 'PatalaBhairavi'. In the movie, the role of a magician was very important. K.V Reddy was the director of the film. Akkineni Nageswara Rao was initially thought to be the protagonist, but after seeing N.T.R in a tennis match, K.V. Reddy  thought that N.T.R would be a better fit as a folk protagonist compared to A.Nageshwara Rao. K.V. Reddy wanted to take a new comer for the villain’s role. He told the same thing to Nagi Reddy and Chakrapani and they remembered SVR’s name who played the character of Sunnam Rangadu in their first movie ‘Shaukaru’ and fixed him for that character. Many objected to this saying that it is not correct to hire new people for a very important role. But Nagi Reddy and Chakrapani were confident with their decision.

The shooting was completed and the film was released on March 15, 1951. All the Telugu people watched the movie. The movie was a big hit. With this film, two great actors came closer to the Telugu people. One was NTR while the other was SVR. SVR's acting and dialogues rocked the crowd. The dialogues "SahasamSeyaraDimbhaka", "Mantrikuni Pranam PittaloUnnadiraDhimbhaka", "Jai PatalaBhairavi", "SastangaNamaskaramSeyara" were a huge hit and audience still recites them. This was probably the first time in the history of Telugu cinema that the audience  became big fan of a villain character. PatalaBhairavi became a huge hit and it served as a big turning point in  SVR life . Through that film, SVR was recognized by the audience and the Telugu industry as a great actor.

SVR had exhausted and was frustrated , trying for movie opportunities before  , but had finally succeeded with Patala Bhairavi. There was no need for him to look back after that as a series of opportunities starred  coming his way. The movie ‘PatalaBhairavi’ was made simultaneously in Telugu and Tamil by Vijaya Productions. It was also released in Tamil and became popular there as well. Thus, SVR entered Tamil cinema with solid success. Similarly, the film was remade in Hindi by Gemini chief Vasan. SVR played the character of a Nepali magician in that also. He also dubbed for himself in Hindi and his diction in the language was quite proficient. Later, he acted in an average of five films a year. In 1952, he acted in films like ‘PellichesiChoodu’ and ‘Palleturu’, produced by Vijaya films. The movie ‘PellichesiChoodu’was remade in Tamil as ‘KalyanamPannipar’. SVR played the same role as in Telugu. That movie was also a big hit there. In 1953, he acted in the movie ‘Chandirani’, ‘BratukuTeruvu’, Telugu Industry All Time Love Classic movie ‘Devadas’, and ‘Paradesi’. In 1954, he acted in hit films like ‘Anta Manavalle’, ‘Raju-Peda’, ‘Sangham’, ‘Chandraharam’, ‘Rohini’ and ‘Chandirani’.The movies ‘Devadas’ and ‘Rohini’ were also shot in Tamil.

In 1955, the film "Bangaru Papa" directed by B.N. Reddy was another milestone in SVR's career. It was based on the story of Silas Marner, a novel by the famous English author George Eliot. Although the film was not a financial success, SVR showed his full potential in the film.  Charlie Chaplin, who saw SVR's performance in the film in London, said that "Eliot would have been very happy if he was alive". Later he acted in hit movies like ‘Anarkali’,‘Missamma’ and ‘Jayasimha’.

He acted in both mythology and socialism genre movies. The role of 'Ghatotkachudu' in the 1957 classic 'Mayabazar' took SVR to another level as an actor. In the mythological films, he did a great job as Duryodhana in ‘Pandava Vanavasam’; as Yamudu in‘Sati Savitri’; as Harischandra in ‘Harischandra’; as Narakasurudu in ‘Deepavali’; as BalaRamudu in ‘Sri KrishnanjaneyulaYudham’; as Bhojarajuin ‘MahakaviKalidasa’;as a magician in ‘Bhatti Vikramarka’; as Hiranyakashipu in ‘Bhaktaprahlada’; as Kansa in ‘Yashoha Krishna’and ‘Sri Krishna Leelalu’; as Ravana in ‘Sampoorna Ramayanam’; and as Akbar in ‘Anarkali’. SVR also acted in social films such as Dhoopati Viyanna in ‘Pellichesi Choodu’;as a Blindman in ‘Santanam’; and as Kotayyaga in ‘Bangarupapa’. Similarly, he played different roles in many wonderful films like 'Devantakudu', 'Velugu Needalu', 'Kalasivunte KaladuSukham', 'Pelli Thambulam', 'Pandanti Kapuram', 'Sambarala Rambabu', 'Basti Kiladilu', 'Rowdy Rangadu', 'Prem Nagar', 'Dasarabullodu', 'Devadasu', 'Atmabandhuvu', 'Appuchesi Pappukoodu', and 'Devadu Chesina Manushulu'.

SVR established a unique position for himself at a time when NTR and ANR were the leading actors on the Telugu screen. The situation was such that SVR was playing a key role in every important film coming out at that time; irrespective of the fact that NTR or ANR played the lead in the movies. So SVR gave life to many  characters with his acting.

SVR entertained not only the Telugu audience but also the Tamil audience with some memorable performances. SVR spoke Tamil very well and used to dub in his own voice in Tamil. This made many Tamillian’s   think that SVR was a Tamillian. He  acted in Hindi film 'MainBhiLadki Hoon ' based on 'NadiAadajanme' directed by Bhanumathi. He  acted in Kannada films like ‘Bhookailas’, ‘Mayabazar’, and in Malyalam films too.

As a Director also

SVR was a versatile genius. In addition to acting, he directed films. He directed the film 'Chadarangam' in 1967 and 'Bhandavyalu' in 1968. Both films were self-produced. The film 'Chadarangam' won the Nandi Award for Second Best film that year. 'Bhandavyalu' received the Nandi Award for Best Picture.

SVR was not only an actor, producer and director. He was also a writer and used to write stories. His stories have been published in magazines such as Manabhoomi, Yuva and Andhra Patrika.

SVR married Lilavati, the daughter of his uncle BadetiVenkataramaiah and aunt Koteshwaramma. They were blessed with two daughters, Vijaya and Pramila and a son named Koteshwara Rao. SVR tried to bring his son into the movies. A movie was also started with his son as the lead . But,the movie was not completed due to some unavoidable reasons.

As a person, SVR was known for being reserved. On sets, he would mind his own work and did not talk much. But once the director said action, SVR would show his acting prowess. SVR liked Vivekananda very much and he used to read most of his books. SVR was a devotee of Shiva. He used to pray Shiva , every morning before starting his work. He liked hunting. Once he  spotted a tiger and pointed his rifle on it. But, he saw the misery in the eyes of the tiger and quit hunting.

SVR was a kindhearted person with a charitable nature. He used to be an active donor and made countless donations to many communities. During the war with Pakistan and China, he toured from village to village with fellow artists to perform, collect donations and handed them over to the government. SVR was a foodie and  also a good cook. Sambar and chicken curry were his specialty dishes and he would cook them whenever he went on picnics with his kids. SVR loved English movies and watched more English movies than Telugu movies in his life. SVR had a rare movie collection. That is the reason why no one could play certain characters like SVR.

SVR won the Best Actor award at the ‘Afro-Asian Film Festival’ in Jakarta in the year 1963. The award was for his role as Kichakudu in the film ‘Narthanashala’. SVR was the first Telugu actor to receive the prestigious award at the international level. He received the ‘President’s Award for Best Acting’ for his films Annai, Sharada, NanumOru Pen, Karpagam and Narthanashala. SVR was felicitated with the Nandi Award for Best Actor for the film ‘Bhandavyalu’. Leading actor Gummadi said “It is our good fortune that Rangarao was born in our country "SVR was given the titles of ‘Viswanatachakravarti’, ‘Natasarvabhauma’, ‘Natasimha’, and‘Natashekhara’.

SVR had a heart attack for the first time in 1974 while in Hyderabad. He was admitted to Osmania Hospital, received treatment there and recovered. He completed working for the Tamil movie 'Sivakamin Selvan' and the Telugu movie 'Yashodakrishna' at that time. SVR wanted to go to America soon and undergo bypass surgery. Meanwhile, on July 18, 1974,he got another heart attack in Madras. He died in the hospital.

The SVR Centenary celebrations were held on July 3, 2018 in Hyderabad and Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu inaugurated the event. The celebration was jointly organized by  Hyderabad Film Club and Sarathi Studios. On the same day, July 3, 2018, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu unveiled a 12-and-a-half-foot-tall SVR bronze statue in Eluru. In 2013, on the occasion of the centenary of the Indian film industry, the Indian Postal Service issued a stamp on the name of SVR. The stamp includes a photo of SVR in the role of 'Ghatotgachudu' from the film 'Mayabazar'.

He died when he was 56 years old. He mesmerized the whole country with his performances from 1950 to 1974. While his death is a great loss to the world of Telugu cinema, he did inspire many people. His dedication, hard work and endless talent are worth mentioning. SVR is the first Telugu actor to win an international award

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