Telugu Cinema is one of the biggest movie industries in India. Popularly known as Tollywood, the industry is predominantly based in Hyderabad. After the rise of talkies in the early 1940s, Tollywood started developing from its embryonic stage to the ‘Baahubali’ it is today. The industry, periodically, produced many timeless classics like Maya Bazaar, Narthanashala, Adavi Ramudu, and the recent blockbuster, Baahubali: The Conclusion. In a poll conducted by CNN-IBN to mark the centenary of Indian Cinema, the 1957 Telugu classic ‘Maya Bazaar’ was ranked ‘the greatest Indian film of all time’. From days where regional cinema was ignored, to the days it is looked high upon, Telugu Cinema has seen it all. Here is the list of top Telugu actors ever.
15. Allu Arjun
Allu Arjun is one of the few actors in the country to enjoy a pan-Indian appeal. Allu Arjun acted in Sukumar’s love tale, Arya, which is a cult-classic of Telugu Cinema. He is famous for his energy and acting. He is also considered as one of the best dancers in the country. All his movies are commercial successes, making him one of the most successful Telugu actors.
Notable films: Arya, Julayi, Sarrainodu.
Prabhas now needs no introduction. Following the mammoth success of Baahubali series, Prabhas is now a Pan-Indian Superstar. He made his debut with the movie, Eshwar, which was a commercial failure. It was the movie ‘Varsham’ that gave him a break. He later acted in a couple of films, of which Prabhas’ acting was acclaimed. However, it was SS Rajamouli’s magnum opus, Baahubali, that brought him global recognition.
Notable films: Varsham, Chatrapati, Baahubali.
13. Pawan Kalyan
Pawan Kalyan is the younger brother of Telugu Superstar, Chiranjeevi. One of the biggest movie stars of Telugu cinema, Pawan Kalyan enjoys larger-than-life stature in the general public. He debuted with the movie, Akkada Ammayi Ikkada Abbayi, which was a blockbuster. At the beginning of his career, he acted in a series of movies like Gokulamlo Seetha, Thammudu which were cult-hits among the youth. This catapulted him to superstardom, and made him ‘Powerstar’. Later, for a period of nearly ten years, all his movies bombed at the box-office. However, it was the 2012 movie, Gabbar Singh that brought him commercial success. He is now foraying into politics with his political party, Janasena.
Notable films: Thammudu, Gabbar Singh, Attarintiki Daredi.
Balakrishna is the son of the legendary NT Rama Rao. Balakrishna continued his father’s legacy with a stream of successful films. He debuted with the movie, Tattama Kala. He is famous for his dialogues that are highly entertaining. Known for his faction dramas, Balakrishna has acted in more than hundred films. His latest outing, Gautamaputra Satakarni was critically acclaimed.
Notable films: Legend, Simha, Gautamiputra Satakarni.
Nagarjuna is the son of the legendary actor, A Nageswara Rao. Nagarjuna debuted with the film, Vikram, a remake of the Hindi film, Hero. Nagarjuna’s first breakthrough film was Maniratnam’s Geetanjali. He later went to act in Ram Gopal Varma’s Siva which was a trendsetter. Siva catapulted Nagarjuna into immediate stardom. It was the devotional movie, Annamayya, that made Nagarjuna, a household name. Annamayya is a cult classic of Telugu Cinema. He is famous for his light-hearted entertainers out of which many are box-office blockbusters.
Notable films: Geetanjali, Siva, Annamayya, Manam
Fan-wars are common in Telugu Cinema. Venkatesh, is probably one of the few actors who is loved by many. A career spanning three decades and featuring in more than 70 films, Venkatesh always tried to break the commercial chain. Most of his movies were Box-office successes and that made him ‘Victory Venkatesh’. A darling of family audiences, he is also popular for his spiritual life, marking a sharp contrast for his professional field.
Notable films: Nuvvu Naaku Nachaav, Bobbili Raja
9. Mohan Babu
Popularly known as ‘Collection King’, Mohan Babu has acted in more than five hundred feature films. Primarily, he acted as an antagonist in many blockbusters. Later, he went on to act in some blockbusters, that made him popular in the industry as ‘Collection King’. The 1991 social drama, Assembly Rowdy made him the talk of industry. The titular role of Pedarayudu made him a superstar. Famous for his lengthy dialogues, he has acted in many memorable movies.
Notable films: Pedharayudu, Assembly Rowdy, Allari Mogudu.
8. NT Rama Rao Jr.
NTR Jr. is a the grandson of the late NT Rama Rao, the Cheif Minister of Andhra Pradesh. He is acclaimed to be one of the finest actors of this generation. He debuted with Bala Ramayanam, which won National Award for Best Children’s Film. At the age of 19, he acted in SS Rajamouli’s Simhadri, when went on to become the biggest hit of Telugu cinema. He collaborated with the director for three films, which were all huge blockbusters.
Notable films: Simhadri, Yamadonga, Janatha Garage.
7. Mahesh Babu
Mahesh Babu is one of the biggest movie stars in the country today. Lovingly, called upon as ‘Superstar’ by his fans, Mahesh Babu has acted in 26 films so far. He debuted with K. Raghavendra Rao’s Raja Kumarudu, and briefly followed it up with blockbusters like Athadu and Okkadu. It was the movie, ‘Pokiri’ that made Mahesh Babu the star he is today. His movie ‘Dookudu’ was one of highest grossing movies in the Overseas. Given his greek-god looks, Mahesh Babu is one of the most charming men in the industry today.
Notable films: Okkadu, Athadu, Dookudu.
6. Shobhan Babu
Shobhan Babu is famous for his social and family dramas. He had an immense following among the family audiences and especially, women. He debuted with the movie, Daivabalam, which was huge commercial success. He later went to act in several iconic family dramas like Kalyana Mandapam, Soggadu, Chelleli Kapuram. Over a career spanning three decades, he has acted in more than 200 films.
Notable films: Kalyana Mandapam, Soggadu, Chelleli Kapuram
Chiranjeevi is “A bigger than Bachchan” phenomenon. One of the biggest movie stars of Telugu Cinema, Chiranjeevi is popularly known as Megastar Chiranjeevi. A career spanning four decades, Chiranjeevi has acted in 150 feature films. Many of his films were box-office blockbusters. News magazine, The week hailed him as ‘The New money machine’. He has huge following in the masses, thanks to his films like Gharana Mogudu, Rowdy Alludu. After a brief stint in politics, his comeback film, Khaidi no. 150 broke all the existing box-office records of Telugu Cinema. With an impeccable comic timing and never-seen-before break dancing, Chiranjeevi ruled the roost for nearly four decades.
Notable films: Swayam Krushi, Gharana Mogudu, Rowdy Alludu.
4. SV Ranga Rao
Remember the song, Vivaha Bojanambhu from the iconic Telugu classic, Maya Bazaar? The euphoria it generated is still fresh in the minds of audiences. The giant, Ghatotkacha, featuring in that iconic song is SV Ranga Rao. One of the finest method actors of his time, SV Ranga Rao, or popularly known as SVR, was famous for his roles in varous mythological movies. Upon recieving a letter from his relative, he left his job to pursue a career in acting. There are more many iconic roles of the stalwart actor in his career spanning more than five decades.
Notable films: Maya Bazaar, Mana Desham, Thodi Kodallu.
Krishna was the first superstar of Telugu Cinema. Krishna was famous for experimenting with different movie roles and was given the tag, “Daring and Dashing’. He was also a passionate filmmaker who experimented with technologies like Eastman Color, DTS mixing, cinemascope, 70mm films. Known for his cowboy and spy movies, Krishna has acted in more than 375 movies in career of more than 50 years. His movie, Alluri Seetharama Raju is one of the most influential movies of Telugu cinema. He is also the father of Telugu Superstar, Mahesh Babu.
Notable films: Eenadu, Alluri Seetharama Raju, Mosagallaki Mosagadu.
2. Akkineni Nageswara Rao
Akkineni Nageswara Rao, or popularly known as ANR, was the Matinee-Idol of Telugu Cinema. He was the most instrumental personality for the establishment of Telugu film industry, now predominantly based in Hyderabad. Over a career spanning more than seven decades, ANR has acted in many iconic movie roles. Debuting with Dharmapatni, he has acted in more than 200 films. Like NTR, ANR also acted in many mythological films that made him popular among family audiences. ANR’s most iconic movie, Devadasu, is a timeless classic of Telugu Cinema. Later, he went on to act in many romantic movies and carved out a niche for himself. He is also one of the most imitated movie personalities of the Industry.
Notable films: Devadasu, Maya Bazaar, Prem Sagar, Premabhishekam.
1. N.T. Rama Rao
N.T. Rama Rao is undoubtedly the most iconic figure of Telugu cinema fraternity. Titled, Vishwavikhyatha Nata Saarvabhouma, NT Rama Rao enjoys a larger-than-life stature that no film personality possesses. He debuted with a social drama, Mana Desham, and then went on to act in mythological films. He gained immense popularity for his portrayal of deities like Krishna and Rama. His iconic baritone and impeccable passion for acting made him the ‘messiah of masses’. He later became the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh after establishing Telugu Desham Party. In a national poll by CNN-IBN, he was voted ‘the greatest Indian actor of all time’.
Notable films: Maya Bazaar, Narthanashala, Adavi Ramudu