A yesteryear classic that brought immense recognition and laurels to Chittoor NagaiahThe current generation might not be aware of the yesteryear legendary actor Vuppaladadiyam Nagaiah Sharma, popularly known as Chittoor V Nagaiah. A prominent actor, singer, composer, director and producer, he has left behind an indelible legacy in Telugu and Tamil cinema, and theatre. In 1965, he became the first South Indian actor to receive the ‘Padma Shri’ in Arts from the Government of India for his contributions to Indian cinema. He was the first South Indian actor to command a remuneration of one lakh rupees in those days. The versatile actor passed away in 1978 at the age of 74.In a stellar career spanning nearly four decades, Nagaiah acted in over two hundred films in Telugu and more than 150 films in Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil and Kannada cinema. But there was a trilogy of films in the career of Nagaiah: Bhakta Pothana, Thyagayya and Yogi Vemana, which were landmark films and of which ‘Thyagayya’ was undoubtedly his crowning glory.Thyagayya was produced and directed by Nagaiah himself. Prior to the film going on floors, he spent two years thoroughly researching the life of Tyagaraja (A saint who lived in the eighteenth century and composed timeless classical poems on Lord Rama) upon whom the movie was based. He went to Tiruvarur, the hometown of Tyagaraja and also visited the public library in Tanjore and collected all the details about the saint’s life and work. He prepared the script for the film with such devotion that every morning; he used to take a dip in the holy Cauvery river before starting work on it. The efforts he put in for the film were compared to the hard work put in by American actor Paul Muni for the Academy-winning film Emily Zola. Subsequently, Nagaiah came to be referred to as the ‘Indian Paul Muni’. While Nagaiah also took upon himself the responsibility for providing the music for the film, he entrusted the job of lyrics to Samudrala Raghavacharya and cinematography to MA Rahman. Legends like Dwaram Venkataswamy Naidu, Viswananth Ayyar, Mani Ayyar and Bangalore Naga Ratnamma participated in the music sittings of the film while it was being made. Lingamurthy, Jayamma, Hema Latha, Rajyam and Sabitha Devi were the other prominent artistes in the film.Thyagayya was released on November 1, 1946 and was a runaway hit. The Maharaja of Mysore invited Nagaiah and honoured him with a silver shawl, gold coins and a golden necklace embedded with the photograph of Lord Rama. Similarly, the Maharaja of Thiruvanchoor invited Nagaiah and did ‘Pada Puja’ (Worship of feet as a sign of respect) and conferred the title of ‘Abhinava Tyagaraju’ (New Tyagaraju) on him. This was a honour which had not been given to any Telugu actor. “What more can I hope for as an actor,” remarked Nagaiah at the various accolades being heaped on him and donated half his property to the Music College in Thiruvaiyaru. Prior to the release of Thyagayya, there used to be a predominance of Hindustani classical music in Telugu cinema which was supplanted with Carnatic Music and this change was solely credited to the success of Thyagayya. After the massive success of Sankarabharanam in 1980, an attempt was made to portray JV Somayajulu as Thyagayya. The movie was directed by Bapu, scripted by Ramana and produced by Navatha Krishnam Raju. It released in 1981 and received a cold shoulder from the audiences. Connoisseurs could just not accept anyone other than Nagaiah in that role! Such was the impact that the movie had and continues to have on those who revisit it in the digital space.