Whether it was the cowboy with the oversized straw hat, long boots and revolver stylishly twirling around his hands, the rebel freedom fighter Alluri Seetharamaraju fighting the British to save his homeland from their tyrannical rule or Sharath Chandra’s jilted lover Devadas drowning his sorrows in alcohol, the redoubtable actor with his handsome, flamboyant looks and endearing personality was a star on whom the epithet ‘Superstar’ seemed more than right. Ghattamaneni Siva Ramakrishna Murthy, the “Burripalem Bullodu” (youth from Burripalem) a hamlet near Guntur in Andhra Pradesh won many hearts as Krishna, the hero who took the film world by storm. In a career spanning five decades, the actor starred in more than 350 films across genres endearing himself to a legion of fans across the Telugu states. The dashing and daring hero who acted in many spy thrillers like Gudachari 116, Agent Gopi and James Bond 777 was a star like no other in terms of novelty of roles and the many first to his credit. After his first Telugu film “Thene manusulu’ released in 1965, there was no looking back for the actor who stood out in any role he essayed as a solo hero, in multi starrer films or as a hero with more than one heroine.
A pioneer who believed in making larger than life films, Krishna is credited with making the first cinema scope film (Alluri Seethramaraju) the first 70mm film (Simhasanam) and the first cowboy style films of which Mosagallaku mosagadu is the most famous. A cameo scene in the cowboy get -up, in his son Mahesh babu’s film was a tribute to this aspect of the super star. He stared screen space with the other legendary actors of Telugu cinema Akkineni Nageshwara Rao and N.T. Rama Rao acting in films like Akka Chellellu and Devudu Chesina Manushulu holding on to his own style with elan. Although uncomfortable with onscreen dancing, his awkward dance movements too were lapped up his fans who believed that his awesome screen presence made everything else insignificant. Krishna may have been called the daring and dashing hero and the James Bond of Telugu films but he acted in several emotional family dramas that included films like Pandanti Kapuram that was based on the strength of the joint family. His on screen chemistry with actress Vijayanirmala who starred in more than 40 films with him and directed many of his later day films became his life- partner, who was with him for an equal duration and the duo together made a significant contribution to Telugu films.
Krishna’s Padmalaya studios established in 1971, was an important landmark in Hyderabad and he produced and distributed several successful films in Telugu and Hindi. His fondness for former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi led to his stint as a Congress member of Parliament from Eluru in West. Godavari district in 1989, but his political stint was brief. The simple and unassuming actor who was a producers delight and a star who helped build the career of many others was not cut out for the machinations and the rough and tumble of politics. Described as a compassionate, caring and loving human being and a super star beyond the silver screen, the man who was an “Ajatashatru’(on with no enemies) leaves beyond a huge void. In his passing away, we have lost a Superstar who stirred up many positive emotions, a tradition of actors whose presence enlivened the screen, and an era of memorable films.