HYDERABAD: Anaparthi Nagendra Rao, who played the role of Lava in NT Rama Rao-starrer mythological bilingual Lava Kusa (1963), is no more. Popularly known as ‘Lava Kusa’ Nagaraju, the veteran actor died of respiratory complications at his residence in Gandhi Nagar, Hyderabad, on Monday. He was 71 and is survived by his wife, three daughters and a son. He has acted in over 300 films in Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada.
Shot in Eva colour, Lava Kusa was directed by CS Rao and his father C Pullaiah. The film went on floors in 1958 when Nagaraju was eight years old. However, the production was halted due to financial issues and was later released in 1963, when he turned 13.Nagaraju’s performance along with Viyyuri Subrahmanyam, who played Kusa in the classic, has received plaudits from across the nation. The Telugu version won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Telugu for that year. The film completed 175-run in 18 centres and ran for 75 weeks in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh.
Following the film’s stupendous success, opportunities kept coming in for Nagaraju and he played diverse roles in several classics like Sipayi Koothuru, School Master, Venkateswara Mahatyam, Krishna Kuchela, Ummadi Kutumbam and Srikrishna Satya, among others.
Of all the stars he has worked with, Nagaraju shared a great rapport with NTR. Together, they have featured in around 50 films. Besides portraying Lava, Nagaraju has proved his mettle in playing the young version of NTR in films like Indrajith, Tiger Ramudu and Bheeshma, among others. He also won applause for playing Lakshmana in films like Sri Ramanjaneya Yuddham, Sampoorna Ramayanam, etc.
Nagaraju also dabbled with the small screen and played Kapila Maharshi in a television serial named Gomaata Vaibhavam. He retired from films and had chosen a spiritual path during his last days. Several Telugu film personalities mourned the death of Nagaraju and termed it a great loss to the industry.