Popular Telugu film actor Ghattamaneni Siva Rama Krishna Murthy, widely known as Superstar Krishna, breathed his last on Tuesday at a private hospital in Hyderabad. He was 79 and is survived by his children Manjula, Padmavathi, Priyadarshini, and Mahesh Babu.
The virtuoso, who was admitted to the hospital following a cardiac arrest on Monday, died due to multi-organ failure, announced the doctors on Tuesday.
Krishna strode the Telugu film industry canvas like a colossus for over six decades not only as a great actor but as a producer's favourite, and an iconic director and producer. He acted in over 350 films and was credited as the man of many firsts in Telugu cinema such as starring in the first Cinemascope film (Alluri Seetharama Raju, 1974), the first Eastman colour film (Eenadu, 1982), the first 70mm 4 track Stereophonic sound (Simhasanam, 1986) and also introducing the cowboy genre with films like Mosagallaki Mosagadu (1971).
In recognition of his contribution to art and cinema, the Indian government conferred upon him the Padma Bhushan (2009). The multi-faceted personality was elected as a Member of Parliament for the Congress party in 1989. He also received an Honorary Doctorate from Andhra University in 2008.
Born into a middle-class household on May 31, 1942, Krishna had an insatiable love for films from his early days. His tale of success began with the silver screen in supporting roles in films like Kula Gothralu (1961), Padandi Mundhuku (1962), and Paruvu Prathishta (1963). Subsequently, he played one of the leads in late director Adurthi Subbarao's romantic drama Thene Manasulu (1965) and made his debut as a solo lead with Kanne Manasulu (1996).
Krishna became a household name with the runaway success of the iconic Telugu spy film Gudachaari 116 (1966). He was also known as the Andhra James Bond after he brought many James Bond-style, spy movies to the Telugu screen.
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Krishna also shared screen space with almost all the stalwarts of that era, including NT Rama Rao and Akkineni Nageswara Rao in films such as Stree Janma (1967), Niluvu Dopidi (1968), Manchi Kutumbam (1968), Vichithra Kutumbam (1969), Akka Chellellu (1970). Krishna became famous across the nation when his family drama Pandanti Kapuram (1972), which ran for over 175 days in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, earned him a slot in the highly competitive family hero league and a National Award for Best Feature Film in Telugu.
Krishna established Padmayala Films in 1971 and had a roaring break with the banner's first film Mosagallaku Mosagadu.
Krishna tumbled many records with his portrayal as Alluri Seetarama Raju in the eponymous film in 1974. The biographical action film won the National Film Award for Best Lyrics for the song 'Telugu Veera Levara' penned by the late poet Sri Sri. The film also won the Nandi Award for Best Feature Film and was screened at the International Film Festival of India and the Tashkent Film Festival. The film ran for 175 days and has emerged as the highest-grossing Telugu film of the year.
Such was the success of Alluri Seetarama Raju that none of his next 14 films could match the hype and craze for the classic, and they hardly made a mark at the box office.
Krishna redeemed himself with Paadi Pantalu (1976) and went on to headline and bankroll a mythological film titled Kurukshetram. The film's announcement has taken the Telugu film industry by storm and also paved way for a star war with NT Rama Rao, who also went on to make a film named Daana Veera Soora Karna (1977) along the same lines. Following this, Krishna made a few films that directly attacked NTR, setting off the rivalry between the fans. His attitude has set him apart from his contemporaries and earned him the sobriquet ‘daring and dashing hero’.
1979 turned out to be an eventful year for Krishna, with six of his films becoming money spinners at the box office. 1982 is yet another milestone year for Krishna as he launched Padmalaya Studios and produced his 200th film Eenadu. He catapulted to the top league with a string of successful films like Mundhadugu, Kiraayi Kotigaadu, Adavi Simhaalu, Sakthi, and Prajaarajyam. He made a successful transition into an angry young man role with the swashbuckling hit Agniparvatham. Krishna's youthful vivacity and his powerful dialogue ‘Aggipetti unda?’ became the go-to line for the masses. Krishna was also part of Tollywood’s super hit films like Pachani Kapuram, Simhaasanam, Khaidhi Rudrayya, Muddayi, Koduku Diddina Kapuram, Saahasamee Naa Oopiri, Gudachari 117 and Goondaarajyam.
At one time, between 1968 and 1986, Krishna used to work in over dozen films a year to fulfill his commitments. Interestingly, Krishna was one of the highest-paid actors of his time.
In the 90s, Krishna reinvented himself, playing the roles of the avuncular and ruthless gangster, big brother, and cameos in action dramas.
He also directed 16 films, including the Hindi remake of the Telugu film Sampangi titled Ishq Hai Tumse (2004).
In 1969, he married actor Vijaya Nirmala with whom he acted in a bunch of path-breaking hits. Among all the big stars he has worked with, his chemistry with Sridevi, Jayaprada, and Vijaya Shanti enthralled the audience. Details of his larger-than-life personality off-screen appeared regularly in the newspapers and social media. Krishna’s last major movie to be released was Sri Sri (2016) after which he bid adieu to films and has been staying away from the limelight. He would rarely make public appearances, with most of them confined to his son and popular actor Mahesh Babu’s film events.
Krishna's death has created a void in the hearts of his family, friends, and fans but left behind a large treasure trove through his impeccable work in the Telugu cinema.
Meanwhile, tributes have been pouring in for Krishna from his fellow Tollywood actors and politicians on social media