The village boy who was hell bent on becoming a hero at any cost
Born to Ghattamaneni Raghavaiah Chowdary and Nagaratnamma in 1944 in a small village called Burripalem, Guntur, Krishna was always drawn to acting. He honed his acting skills in local theatre before making it to the silver screen. The journey wasn’t an easy one, though.
“I was a graduate, but I was adamant that I wanted to be a hero at any cost. I was even turned down by filmmakers like Chakrapani and LV Prasad when I went to meet them in Madras, despite them being my father’s friends. It was only later that Adhurthi Subba Rao liked the way I looked and cast me in my first film
Thene Manasulu in 1965,” the late actor had revealed in an earlier interview.
Prior to that, he had only played minor roles in films like
Padandi Mundhuku, and
Thene Manasulu turned out to be a huge hit, but it was the 1967 spy film
Goodachari 116 that made Krishna a household name in Andhra Pradesh. An adaptation of the James Bond franchise, the film heralded the arrival of a new mass hero.
“Krishna’s stylised portrayal of Agent Gopi captured the imagination of the audience and earned him the nickname ‘Andhra James Bond’. The stylised car and bike chase sequences left the audience spellbound. There was no looking back as he went on to carve a niche for himself with his trademark swagger and trail-blazing films,” says Nandi Award-winning Telugu film historian Harikrishna Mamidi.
A trailblazer who pioneered many firsts in Telugu cinema
Such was his charisma, that Krishna quickly joined the ranks of reigning matinee idols NTR and ANR, and earned the title ‘Superstar’.He was one of the busiest stars of his time, with an average of 10 releases per year between 1964 and 1995, with his highest number of films in a year touching 18 in 1972.
In a career spanning over five decades, Krishna notched up many firsts that redefined Telugu cinema. Under his home banner Padmalaya Studios, Krishna produced films that introduced new filmmaking technologies, including the first 70mm film, the first Eastman colour film, first cinemascope film and the first DTS cinema, in Telugu cinema. Many of Krishna’s films like
Ooriki Monagadu (
Chuttalunnaru Jagratha (
Mawaali), went on to be remade in Hindi, most of them starring Jeetendra.
Krishna’s reign didn’t stop even when he switched genres; turned to direction; or when his career went through rough patches. He called the shots and reigned as a true star, until he retired in 2016.
Summing up his contribution to the film industry, filmmaker Rajamouli said that Krishna’s contribution is much beyond his stint as an actor in 300+ films: “What set Superstar Krishna
garu apart was his love and passion for newer technologies, and his daringness to use them. He revolutionised Telugu cinema but most of all, he taught us not to be afraid of taking the untrodden path. We will be forever indebted to him.”
He always found time for
us no matter how busy he was: Mahesh Babu
Krishna was the ‘Superstar’ for the world, but for his family – especially his five children – he was their ‘super dad’. Talking about the influence his father had on his life, Mahesh Babu said in an earlier interview, “He always found time for us no matter how busy he was. He was such a good father; we never felt like he chose cinema over us. It’s something I’ve learnt from him, and I aim to do the same with my children now.”
Krishna would try to include his kids in his films just to be able to spend more time with them. Mahesh began his career as a child actor with some of his father’s greatest hits like
Mugguru Kodukulu (which also starred his brother Ramesh Babu),
Koduku Diddina Kapuram and more. His father even directed
Balachandrudu, which starred a teen Mahesh in the title role.
In a chat with his daughter Manjula, Krishna admitted that he wanted all his kids to be successful but never expected Mahesh to take on his tag of ‘Superstar’someday. “It made me so happy to him fgrow. The way he was accepted by fans has been heart-warming,” he said.
Mahesh has often credited his father, Krishna, for the kind of man and actor he is today. “He was the guiding force in my career. He was like a rock I could lean on. I will always remain his biggest fan,” he had said.
A True superstar, Krishna stood tall and blazed a trail in Telugu cinema: Film frat
Narendra Modi: Krishna garu was a legendary superstar, who won hearts of people through his versatile acting and lively personality. His demise is a colossal loss to the world of cinema and entertainment. In this sad hour my thoughts are with @urstrulyMahesh and his entire family. Om Shanti.
Allu Arjun: Heart broken by the demise of Krishna garu. His contribution to the Telugu cinema industry cannot be described in words. A true Superstar by all means. My deepest condolences to his family, well wishers & fans. May his beautiful soul rest in peace.#SuperStarKrishna garu
Suriya: Our prayers and respects to Krishna garu, sending lots of love and strength to @urstrulymahesh and family. It’s been a tough year for you brother. We are with you!
Nandamuri Balakrishna: The demise of Ghattamaneni Krishna garu has left us in deep shock. Krishna garu, with his acting, made new waves, rose to great heights and left an undelible mark in the hearts of his fans. As an actor, producer, director his contribution to cinema is unparalleled. Our family shares a close bond with Krishna garu. My father (NTR) and he worked together in several films. Working with him was an unforgettable experience for me as well. Krishna garu’s absence is an irreplaceable loss to the film industry and fans. I pray he rests in peace. I hope my brother Mahesh Babu, who is going through a difficult time, having lost his brother, Ramesh Babu and his mother, Indira Devi, in quick succession, finds strength. I convey my deep condolences to the entire family.
Nagarjuna: A Fearless man who attempted every genre!! The original cowboy of Telugu films!! I could sit with him for hours which were filled with his positivity… the man the legend the superstar!! #RIPSuperStarKrishnaGaru we will miss you.
Venkatesh: Deeply pained to hear about Krishna garu’s passing. A Superstar in every right, he stood tall and commanded attention on screen like no other. We will sorely miss him. Rest in peace, Sir. Sending love, light and strength to Mahesh and the family in this time of grief.
Jr NTR: Krishna garu’s name is synonymous with bravery. Apart from many experimental films and distinctive characters, your credit for introducing many techniques to Telugu cinema will always be remembered.
Many memorable firsts in T’wood
First Eastman colour film:
First Western Film:
First James Bond-inspired Film:
First 70mm Film:
Many of Krishna’s films like
Devatha, Ooriki Monagadu were remade in Hindi, most of them starring Jeetendra.
Padma Bhushan (2009)
Doctorate (Andhra University)
Nandi Award for Best Actor: Alluri Sita Rama Raju (1974)
Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award – South (1997)
NTR National Award (2003)