R. Nagendra Rao
Rattihalli Nagendra Rao

(1896-06-23)23 June 1896
Died9 February 1977(1977-02-09) (aged 80)
Occupation(s)Actor, film director, producer, screenwriter, composer
  • Ratna Bai
  • Kamala Bai
Children4, including
AwardsPadma Shri (1976)

Rattihalli Nagendra Rao (23 June 1896 – 9 February 1977) was an Indian theatre actor, film actor and director in South Indian cinema. Following his career in theatre, Rao turned to film a where he became an actor, director, producer, screenwriter and occasional composer. He is considered one of the most influential personalities in the history of South Indian cinema.[1]

For his performance in Hannele Chiguridaga (1968), Rao won the Karnataka State Film Award for Best Actor. Recognized for his contributions to cinema, he was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1976. Rao had four children, three of whom were involved in film. His second son, R. N. K. Prasad, was a cinematographer, his third son, R. N. Jayagopal, a screenwriter and lyricist and his youngest, R. N. Sudarshan, an actor.[2]

Early life

Nagendra Rao was born on 23 June 1896, in Holalkere, in Kingdom of Mysore of British India.[3]


Rao began his career as an actor in theatre, performing in plays written in the Kannada language at the age of eight. As a child, he portrayed divine female characters such as Sita and historical characters such as Chandramathi and Desdemona. He then switched to male roles, his work proving popular in the erstwhile Kingdom of Mysore and the non-Kannada speaking Madras Presidency. In theatre, he worked with A. V. Varadacharya's Ratnavali Drama Company and Chamundeshwari company, in Mysore.[4]

With the beginning of the talking films era in India in 1931, Rao left for Bombay (now Mumbai). There, he was cast by actor and director P. K. Raja Sandow in the Tamil language films Parijata Pushpaharanam (1932), Narada (1932), Kovalan (1933) and the Telugu language film Ramadasu (1933). Rao appeared in lead roles in the latter two. Following a stint in film, Rao returned to Bangalore and founded the Shri Sahitya Samrajya Nataka Mandali (Shri Sahitya Samrajya Drama Company) with Subbaiah Naidu, an actor and director, who would go on to influence Kannada cinema greatly.[3]

To realize his dream of making a film written in Kannada, he approached Shah Chamanlal Doongaji, a Bangalore businessman, to finance it. With Doongaji choosing Yaragudipati Varada Rao to direct the film, the first talking film in Kannada, Sati Sulochana, was made and finally released on 3 March 1934. Rao played the role of Ravana in the film, and scored the music. His first film as a director came in the 1943 film Satya Harishchandra, which he also produced and starred in.[4]

Rao's play Bhukailasa was thrice made into films; in 1938 and 1940 by Sundar Rao Nadkarni, and in 1958 by K. Shankar. It was in this play that Rajkumar, who would go on to become one of Kannada cinema's finest actors, made his breakthrough as a theatre actor, playing the role of Narada.[3] In 1951, Rao formed his own film production company, RNR Pictures. The 1957 film Premada Putri was produced under this banner and Rao directed it, also playing a supporting role in the film. At the 5th National Film Awards, the film was awarded the Best Feature Film in Kannada.[5] The production company existed until 1964. Following this, he appeared in the roles of a father in films such as Shri Kannika Parameshwari Kathe (1966) and Karulina Kare (1970). For his role in his 1968 film Hannele Chiguridaga, that co-stars Rajkumar, he won the Karnataka State Film Award for Best Actor. His last appearance came in the 1974 film Professor Huchuraya.[3]


Year Film Language Functioned as Notes
Director Producer Screenwriter Actor Role
1932 Ramadasu Telugu Yes Lead role
1933 Parijatha Pushpaharunam Tamil Yes Narada
1933 Kovalan Tamil Yes Lead role
1934 Sati Sulochana Kannada Yes Yes Ravana First Kannada sound film
1935 Naveena Sadarame Tamil Yes
1940 Bhookailas Telugu Yes Narada
1941 Vasantsena Kannada Yes Yes Yes Sakara Supporting role
1943 Satya Harishchandra Kannada Yes Yes Yes Yes Vishvamitra Supporting role
1947 Mahatma Kabir Kannada Yes Yes
1949 Apoorva Sagodharargal Tamil Yes Marthandan Supporting role
1950 Apoorva Sahodarulu Telugu Yes
1952 Moondru Pillaigal
Mugguru Kodukulu
Tamil Telugu Yes Yes
1953 Chandirani Telugu
1953 Jataka Phala
Kannada Telugu Tamil Yes Yes
1955 Santosham
Naya Aadmi
Yes Dayanidhi Supporting role
1956 Nagula Chavithi
Telugu Kannada Yes
1956 Renuka Mahatme Kannada Yes
1956 Bhaktha Markandeya Kannada Telugu Yes Supporting role
1957 Bettada Kalla Kannada Yes
1957 Mahiravana Kannada Yes
1957 Premada Putri
Anbe Deivam


Yes Yes Yes National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Kannada
1959 Amudhavalli Tamil Yes
1960 Ranadheera Kanteerava Kannada Yes Vikrama Raya Supporting role
1961 Vijayanagarada Veeraputra Kannada Yes Yes Yes
1962 Gaali Gopura Kannada Yes Govindaiah
1963 Veera Kesari Kannada Yes Dharma Nayaka
1963 Ananda Bashpa Kannada Yes Yes Yes
1964 Pathiye Daiva Kannada Yes Yes
1964 Navajeevana Kannada Yes Cameo
1965 Nanna Kartavya Kannada Yes
1965 Balarajana Kathe Kannada Yes
1965 Maduve Maadi Nodu Kannada Yes
1965 Chandrahasa Kannada Yes Chakreshwara Cameo
1966 Thoogudeepa Kannada Yes
1967 Sri Kanyaka Parameshwari Kathe Kannada Yes Supporting role
1967 Premakkoo Permitte Kannada Yes Yes
1967 Nakkare Ade Swarga Kannada Yes
1967 Shri Purandaradasaru Kannada Yes Krishna
1967 Janara Jana Kannada Yes
1968 Hannele Chiguridaga Kannada Yes Anantha Karnataka State Film Award for Best Actor
1968 Attegondukala Sosegondukala Kannada Yes Supporting role
1969 Kannu Muchale Kannada Yes
1969 Grihalakshmi Kannada Yes
1969 Namma Makkalu Kannada Yes Yes
1969 Makkale Manege Manikya Kannada Yes
1970 Nadina Bhagya Kannada Yes Yes Dharmaiah
1970 Sri Krishnadevaraya Kannada Yes
1970 Lakshmi Saraswathi Kannada Yes
1970 Karulina Kare Kannada Yes Subbanna
1971 Aliya Geleya Kannada Yes Rao Bahadur Ranga Rao
1971 Sakshatkara Kannada Yes Ajjayya
1971 Kula Gourava Kannada Yes Kala's grandfather Cameo
1971 Naguva Hoovu Kannada Yes
1972 Kalavari Kutumbam Telugu Yes
1972 Naa Mechida Huduga Kannada Yes N. G. Rao
1973 Mannina Magalu Kannada Yes
1973 Prema Pasha Kannada Yes
1974 Professor Huchuraya Kannada Yes Shama Shastry


  1. ^ "Anbey Deivam 1957". The Hindu. 2 September 2012. Retrieved 7 October 2014.
  2. ^ "R.N. Jayagopal passes away". The Hindu. 20 May 2008. Retrieved 7 October 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d Ashish Rajadhyaksha; Paul Willemen (10 July 2014). Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-135-94325-7.
  4. ^ a b "First film to talk in Kannada". The Hindu. 31 December 2004. Archived from the original on 7 October 2014. Retrieved 7 October 2014.
  5. ^ "18th National Film Awards" (PDF). Directorate of Film Festival. Retrieved 7 October 2014.