She is a goddess for a generation…and a divine beauty of dreams, an Anarkali of a Cupid Hero. After gaining experience in acting and growing as an actress she is a Sita, Sati Sakkubai, Sumathi and Leelavati! She is adept in adorning roles which suit her age and propagate human relations brilliantly through family roles such as a mother, sister and a sister in law!
Anjani Kumari who grew to prominence as stage actress and a dancer transformed to Anjali Devi for Silver Screen and adorned unforgettable roles in her career. As a producer, she gave memorable films in every genre available. Born during Dasara (Auspicious Season) in the year 1928, Anjali Devi left this World in 2014 on another Auspicious Season Sankranthi. She saw grandeur during her tenure of acting in the film industry and left great memories to her fans in this duration.
Anjali Devi’s life is filled with Dance, Acting and Music through her journey beginning with Peddapuram to Madras via Kakinada. She earned good name as a stage artist under the guidance of Adi Narayana Rao in Young Men’s Happy Club, Kakinada. But she couldn’t earn heroine roles overnight. She had to act as a vamp in films like ‘Golla Bhama’ and ‘Keelugurram’. Nevertheless, she got good feedback with her performance. Fortunately, the vamp brand did not settle on her. ‘Palletoori Pilla’, ‘Sri Laksmamma Kadha’, ‘Swapna Sundari’ and ‘Sthree Sahasam’ earned tremendous attraction and good name for her. Additionally, she had great support from her mentor, and life partner Adi Narayana Rao throughout. She ventured into production by joining hands with ANR to establish Ashwini Pictures and they acted together in ‘Maayalamari’ the home production. After raising to super stardom, she established ‘Anjali Pictures’ and made a film ‘Paradesi’ under the direction of L.V.Prasad in Telugu and Tamil languages respectively. ‘Anarkali’ and ‘Suvarna Sundari’ which came under the same banner created a sensation and established Anjali Devi in the list of top notch actresses.
She acted opposite stars like Sr.NTR and ANR in Ilavelpu, Jayasimha, Panduranga Mahatyam, Jayabheri, Rechukka, Charanadasi and Chenchulakshmi. During this period she faced tough competition from her contemporaries’ right at the moment when her position was getting stronger. Apart from Bhanumathi’s occasional presence in Cinema, heroines like Savitri, Jamuna, Janaki and Krishnakumari happened to get more offers during this time and Anjali Devi realized it. With failure of Runanubandham which starred her as heroine opposite ANR, she turned her focus on middle aged woman roles. She redefined the mythological roles and acted more in devotional films. At the same time she acted in sympathetic family dramas in social genre films by bringing poise and earthliness to the characters she adorned.
Right from Lava Kusa to Mahakavi Kshetrayya she played roles which suit her strengths and projected her speciality. Anjali Devi is prodigious in showing emotions through eyes and great facial expressions. Whether it is social or mythological or folklore she performed par excellence. Though this was evident with her initial film Sri Lakshmamma Kadha, Lava Kusa earned her greater name for this quality. Anjali Devi could act as Sita as brilliant as the predecessor version of Lava Kusa which had Senior Actress Sri Ranjani in the same role and critics agreed with it. They called her contrast in performance as Sita who lives happily in the kingdom after experiencing troubles in Lanka and the Sita who reaches Forest away from Lord Rama to be something out of the world. In Sati Sakkubai she acted as a determined wife and calm individual. It is surprising to see the same Anjali Devi act in a peppy and romantic role in Pandurangadu as a wife who tries to get her husband back in good books.
Rangularatnam earned Anjali Devi a great name as an actress. She gave life to the role of mother for Rammohan, Chandramohan and Vijayanirmala who combats sadness and conflict throughout. It is interesting to see her initially act opposite ANR as heroine in first innings and later act as his sister in law (Adarsa Kutumbam, Dasara Bullodu), Mother(Suputrudu), Wife (Bhakta Tukaram) in her second innings! In all these aforementioned roles, there is absolutely no influence of one character over the other. In the same context, her acting in Badipanthulu opposite Sr.NTR deserves a special mention. Her acting when she speaks to her husband over the phone remains unforgettable for the audience of that generation!
Apart from star heroes, she acted in Krishna, Sobhan Babu, Krishnam Raju films as well. She even acted opposite legendary character actors like SVR and Gummadi in numerous films. Despite acting in routine films, Thatha Manavadu and Lakshmi Nivasam reminded Anjali Devi’s tremendous skill in acting and reestablished her position in Telugu Cinema.
Though Anjali Devi had a smooth career in terms of acting, she had to see some hardships as a producer. When her acting chances became meek, she produced small budget films which suited her image. Though Bhakta Tukaram which she produced along with ANR fared well, she had to face troubles with the failure of Mahakavi Kshetrayya. But she bounced back producing the film Chandipriya starring Sobhan Babu and Jayaprada in the lead roles.
Anjali Devi has the unique record of acting maximum number of films opposite legendary actor ANR. She was awarded with Raghupathi Venkayya Award, Doctorate from Nagarjuna University and award from ANR foundation as well.
Anjali Devi’s phenomenal journey with a blend of many generations as a great actress will remain forever in the history of Telugu Cinema!