Anjali Devi, who passed away a couple of days ago, was one of the finest actresses in South Indian cinema. Though she was part of more than 500 films, from being the lead actress to a character artiste, her hallmark role remains that of Sita in Lavakusa, a classic mythological film in Indian cinema.
The two child actors, Subramanyam and Nagaraju, who played Kusa and Lava reminisce about Anjali Devi.
She used to look after me as her child: Subramanyam
Now settled in Amalapuram, Subramanyam remembers: “Though the film was released in 1963, it took almost five years to complete the film. I had acted in the drama Lavakusa along with my brother in Kakinda in 1958. At that time, director C. Pullaih and producer Sankar Reddy saw my performance. They selected me to play Kusa,” remembers Subramanyam.
“We used to perform for a cultural organisation called ‘Young Men’s Happy Club’. Anjali Devi, her husband Adi Narayana Rao, Relangi, S.V. Ranga Rao, etc. belonged to the club and then joined films,” says Subramanyam.
“When I first went to Chennai, I used to stay in Anjamma’s house. After some time, they shifted me to another place.”
The producer didn’t sign the contract for almost six months. “My father approached Anjali Devi. Within a day, the contract was signed. She was very helpful. I spent almost five years with her. She used to look after me like her child,” remembers Subramanyam. “During festivals, she bought new clothes for me as she did for her children.”
He remembers that Anjali’s performance in the film raised the bar even for the child actors.
After the film released in 1963, Subramanyam left films and returned home because: “I was 16 at that time and I couldn’t act as a child actor and wasn’t suitable for lead roles.”
In 2008, after 45 years, Subramanyam met Anjali Devi in Vijayawada, at an event to felicitate the artistes of the film. “She showed the same affection, as she enquired about me. She said that she was planning a Lavakusa commemoration event in Chennai, this year,” says Subramanyam, adding that Anjali enjoyed a happy life and even donated lands and money to Satya Sai Baba Trust.
No one can ever replace her: Nagaraju
Nagaraju who played Lava was shooting in Gudur, when he heard of Anjali’s demise.
“It took me some time to overcome the news and digest it,” says Nagaraju.
“She was a great artiste and a good human being too and no one can ever replace her,” he says.
He remembers a particular scene where she had to throw both the children out because they spoke against Lord Rama.
“We had to cry in the scene and she has to hug us. Even when the director said cut, I continued to cry. She came to me, hugged me and comforted me saying, ‘You have done an excellent job’,” remembers Nagaraju.
He added that Anjali Devi had planned to felicitate Nagaraju and Subramanyam this February in Chennai. He believes that Anjali’s films can be seen and enjoyed for another 100 years.
“People still remember the film Lavakusa because of her,” says Nagaraju.
“We were in touch with her and she wanted to organise a big function, but before that, she left us,” he concluded....