In Telugu Cinema, Biopics or stories based on lives of historical figures have been a welcome change from regular commercial stories. Some created history and changed the trend of the movies produced post their release as well. Right from K.V. Reddy, revered as best director in Telugu Cinema, to Nag Ashwin, director of Mahanati, many tried their hands at true stories. Let’s list out 20 best films out of them.
Here are 20 Telugu Movies Based on True Stories
The choice is obvious. We don’t know much Annamayya, except that he was born in Tallapaka and ran away from his house to Tirumala Tirupathi out of his love for Lord Venkateswara and wrote 32,000 sankreethanas (songs praising lord), in his lifetime. His family found him and got married to his maternal uncle’s daughters. He died at the age of 91 or 92 years of age. Taking these details, Raghavendra Rao – the director and JK Bharavi – the writer came up with a landmark Telugu film in devotional movies. Akkineni Nagarjuna, composer MM Keeravani, Suman and legendary singer SP Balasubramanyam with Jayanan Vincent as a cinematographer, gave their best to the film, to make it a classic. Doraswami Raju produced the film. People still praise the climax of this film as one of the best climaxes in Cinema ever, not just Telugu or Indian Cinema, mind you.
Revered dancer and actor, Sudha Chandran lost her leg in a road accident. She decided to continue dancing wearing a wooden leg. It is difficult to even get accustomed to walking with a wooden leg but she overcame that challenge and became one of the best Bharatanayam dancers in India. She is now acting in serials like Naagin on TV. Singeetham Sreenivasa Rao made a film on her life in 1985 with her in the lead. Ushakiran Movies produced the film. It created a sensation back in the day as no one expected the film to run for 100 days at theatres prior to release. The film won Special Jury National award and 14 Nandi awards from Andhra Pradesh State Government.
This movie became a classic in devotional films like Annamayya and became a commercial success too. The combination of Raghavendra Rao, JK Bharavi, MM Keeravani, SP Balasubramanyam and King Nagarjuna delivered a classic with Kancharla Gopanna’s story. Gopanna built Bhadrachalam Lord Rama Temple as Thalisdar of the district against the will of Qutub Shahi King, Abdul Hassan Tana Shah. He was locked in the Golconda Fort for his tyranny for acting against the wishes of his ruler. He wrote and sang songs while he was in Jail and they earned him name as Ramadasu.
Akkineni Nageswararao earned legendary actor status because of his daring nature to try different roles. When no one was in favour of him doing a film based on Sanskrit Poet Kalidasu’s life history, he went against their advice and earned their praises as an actor. The movie tries to tell the story mixing some legends about the poet’s life.
Krishnam Raju, Rebel Star of Telugu Cinema always wanted to do diverse roles like his role model ANR. He had Bhakta Kannappa’s story for a long time in his mind and even though Kannada Kantirava Rajkumar’s Sri Kalahasti Mahatyam about Kannappa in 1954 was still popular, he asked Bapu to direct him and Ramana to write the script. They crafted an original classic out of the legends available about the devotee of Shiva who donated his eyes to the Lord to be known as Kannappa, for his sacrifice and devotion.
Ushakiran Movies used to tell real-life stories as films in the 1980’s when it started producing films on a regular basis. Mouna Poratam is a movie based on real-life tribal woman, Sabita Badehi who decided to sit on mute protest opposite the house of the tribal officer who cheated her, seeking marital recognition and conjugal rights for her baby as his legitimate child. Finally, the government employee and his family gave in and accepted their crime, in front of Lok Adalat appointed by the government, especially to solve the case. In a way, this tribal women’s story brought DNA tests into major reckoning in India. Movie is directed by Mohan Gandhi and Yamuna, Vinod Kumar debuted as actors in it.
Once again, producers, Ushakiran Movies decided to produce a film on real-life story. This time they chose Indian athlete, Aswini Nachappa’s story. They even convinced her to act in the lead role as herself in the movie. She won Nandi Award for her performance and later continued to act in few films. She decided to quit acting to become a social worker after several films failed at the box office. Tamil popular director and actor, Moulee directed this film.
This devotional classic is the first Telugu Cinema to have ANR in a devotee role. The movie is based on legends about Thondaradipoddi Alvar, a devotee of Lord Ranganatha of Sri Rangam Temple who is also known as Vipra Narayana. He is one of the famous 12 Alvars. According to the movie story, he falls in love with a devadasi even though he promised to live a life of solitude, dedicated to Lord Ranganatha. The Lord himself praises him as his greatest deity when King tries to punish him for stealing a valuable ornament of Lord Ranganatha from Sri Rangam Temple. Movie stars ANR as Vipra Narayana and Bhanumathi as devadasi. Film was directed and produced by P.S. Ramakrishna Rao, husband of Bhanumathi.
The movie is based on Maharashtrian poet, Sant Tukaram. He is known for writing great poems, Abhanga (verses) Literature on Lord Vitthala, a form of Sri Krishna. He composed songs, wrote books and created a Temple too. He is believed to be a friend of Shivaji Maharaj too. V. Madhusudhan Rao crafted a devotional classic based on the legends about the devotee of Lord Vitthala. ANR, Anjali Devi performances along with music by Adi Narayana Rao are the pillars of this artistic film.
Tenali Ramakrishna is a legendary poet, part of Asthadiggajalu (eight great poets) – members of Sri Krishnadevaraya, legendary King of Vijayanagara empire’s court. The movie is based on legends about the poet and BS Ranga directed the film in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi at the same time. ANR and NTR acted in Telugu version while Sivaji Ganesan acted as Tenali Ramakrishna in Tamil with NTR reprising his role as Krishnadevaraya. The movie is revered as a classic in Telugu.
Continuing with stories about Sri Krishnadevaraya, this movie is revered as the best tale of friendship in Telugu Cinema. Pingali Nagendra Rao, who wrote films like Mayabazaar, Pathalabhairavi wrote this film. Gummadi Venkateswara Rao acted as Mahamantri Timmarasu and NTR portrayed the role of Krishnadevaraya. The movie became a huge hit at Box office and is now revered as a classic.
Maybe today’s generation doesn’t know much about Pothana, who wrote Srimadh Bhagavatham in Telugu. The movie is based on his true story and watching it will give us a good idea about his life too. KV Reddy directed the film with Chittoor V. Nagayya in the lead role. Movie paved the path for KV Reddy to later direct his biggest blockbusters like Pathalabhairavi, Mayabazaar.
Chittoor V. Nagayya and KV Reddy once again collaborated to tell the story of poet Vema Reddy, who is known as Yogi Vemana today, for writing Vemana Sathakam. The movie released in 1947 but did not became a commercial success even though earned praise for its direction and performances from the leads.
The movie is based on India’s most famous female poet Molla, who wrote the Ramayana story. Her book is called Molla Ramayana and legendary comedian, Padmanabham directed the film and his brother, B. Purushottam produced it. Vanisree acted in the lead role as Molla in the movie.
Srimadvirat Veerabrahmendra Swami Charitra
NTR wanted to act as Pothuluri Veerabrahmendra Swamy, who is known for his astrological predictions like Nostradamus in Telugu popular culture, for a long time. He managed to complete the film in his own direction and production after he decided to join politics. As censor board objections took time to clear the film, it released in 1984 even though movie shoot started in 1981 and the first copy was ready by 1982. The movie became a commercial success.
It is debatable to categorise this movie as a biography but it is based on the life of Jesus Christ. Vijay Chander produced and acted in the lead role as well. It became his identity in Telugu Film history. The movie is an emotional epic and won many awards for performances and story telling. It ran for a record number of days at theatres too.
Sri Shridi Sai Baba Mahatyam
Vijay Chander became film reincarnation of Shridi Sai Baba with this film. Music by Ilaiyaraja is still popular among the devotees. The movie is not a biography but it is based on the legends that devotees tell about Baba in Shridi town.
Mahanati is recent Telugu Cinema classic based on Actress Savitri’s real life. Nag Ashwin won awards for his deft handling and Keerthy Suresh won National Award for her performance as Savitri in the film. We don’t think we need say much about the film as it is a recent release and still fresh in our memories.
NTR Kathanayakudu directed by Krish earned critical praise even though it did not become a success at box office. Nandamuri Balakrishna acted as his father a legendary actor, Nandamuri Taraka Ramarao in the film and won critical praise for his performance.
Yatra is a movie based on famous “Padayatra” by Political leader and ex-Chief Minister of United Andhra Pradesh state, Y. Rajasekhar Reddy. Movie directed by Mahi V. Raghav won critical praise and became a commercial success too. Fans of the leader and many critics praised Malayalam legendary actor and Superstar, Mammotty’s performance as Y. Rajasekhar Reddy.