The veteran braved many professional and personal challenges in a career spanning over five decades in cinema
Last Updated: 03.00 PM, Dec 25, 2022
With the demise of veteran actor, producer Chalapathi Rao, Telugu cinema is on the cusp of losing an entire generation of actors who’ ve been instrumental in its growth.The 78-year-old actor, who breathed his last at his son Ravi Babu’ s residence on Saturday, began his career with NTR’ s Kathanayakudu in 1969 and enjoyed an extraordinary innings in the industry that lasted over 53 years, right until this year’ s Bangarraju.
Chalapathi Rao belonged to a simple lower-middle class family from Krishna district and rose to great heights in Telugu cinema while also acting in select Tamil, Hindi films. None of his near and dear even completed their formal education; his village didn’ t even have access to a school. This motivated him to study in a nearby village and ensure a good foundation to his career.
In his later teenage years, he was surprised when a woman (his future wife Indumathi) had proposed marriage to him. With some confidence, despite having no job on hand, he said yes. The two tied the knot and settled in Vijayawada without the knowledge of Chalapathi Rao’ s parents. Making sure that his decision wouldn’ t affect the marriage prospects of his elder brother, Chalapathi Rao went out of the way to settle his sibling’ s alliance and broke his wedding news to the family later.
The actor regularly performed in theatre dramas and one of the plays even had his wife making her stage debut, when there was no actress available to play a particular role. Surprisingly enough, Chalapathi Rao’ s wife won an award for her acting chops and received a medal for the same too, something that the actor preserved till his final days. Later, Chalapathi Rao, along with his wife, decided to move to Madras to try his hand at films even without having any Godfather in the industry.
All along, Chalapathi Rao’ s biggest strength was his dogged determination and self-confidence. He was an NTR fan first and an actor later. In quest of opportunities, the actor used to assemble along with the group of Tirumala travellers that visited NTR everyday at his residence and have an excuse to meet his favourite star. When his appearances got more frequent, NTR helped him find his way in the industry and got him a brief role in Kathanayakudu.
Everyone from the director Hemambaradhara Rao to NTR himself appreciated Chalapathi Rao’ s acting abilities on the sets of his debut and there was no looking back later. Even while the industry and its actors were divided into several camps - ANR, NTR, Sobhan Babu, Krishna - Chalapathi Rao managed to grab roles in films of all these leading stars. When NTR shifted to politics, the star had advised Chalapathi Rao to stay away from political matters and rather focus on his stable career in cinema.
Beyond NTR, he considered producer Devi Sri Prasad and director EVV Satyanarayana as his biggest well-wishers in the industry. Chalapathi Rao is a father to three children - one son and two daughters. He has openly admitted that he was closer to his daughters. “ Girls really know to take care of their parents. Boys don’t make that effort. I raised all my children as independent people and gave them wings to fly without any pressure,” he said in an interview.
Chalapathi Rao was a good actor but was an even better father. When his wife had passed in her early 20s, the actor was against the idea of marrying another woman again, fearing if she would take care of his children well. He brought his mother to Madras to help him raise his three young kids and consistently mentioned how she was a key influence in their upbringing. In his later years, Chalapathi would stay in the US for four months every year to spend time with his daughters.
As a parent, he was a very satisfied man who had the privilege of watching his children settle well. A few years before his death, Chalapathi Rao was at the receiving end from social media for a few comments he had made at a film’ s promotional event. The actor himself admitted that he even contemplated suicide with the criticism that was coming his way. He always credit Mirror Salon CEO, founder Vijayalakshmi for taking due care of him in the last decade, much like a family member.
His only advice to youngsters was to take good care of their parents, study well and stay strong in challenging situations. Chalapathi Rao lead a content life and was certainly a happy man in his final hour - on professional and personal levels.