"Kala Vachaspathi", "Kanchu Kantam": Kongara Jaggaiah

There would be heroes in cinema. There would be stars in cinema. There would be character artistes in a cinema. There would be villains in a cinema. But there are very few who can play all of the above roles with aplomb. He was none other than Kongara Jaggaiah.

Kongara Jaggaiah, was one man who created trends in Telugu cinema and was truly an allrounder. He played as a hero, villain, character artiste, comedian and many such. At a time when dabbling in roles was a risky affair, he was one who understood the true sense of acting and remained an actor. Stardom was within his reach but he chose the way of an actor and remained a professional at it.

Born on 31st December 1928 in Morampudi Village near Tenali in Krishna district, Jaggaih became a noted figure in whatever he did. Before he became an actor, he dabbled in journalism with the weekly Andhra Republic and later to news reading over radio. He was the News reader for All India Radio and a generation used to be awakened by this famous greeting, “Namaskaram, Vaarthalu cahduvuthunnadi, Kongara Jaggaiah.”  Soon his passion for the theater which he shared with NTR who was his college mate at the Andhra-Christian college, Guntur dragged him out of AIR and pushed him towards Madras.

He got a chance as a lead actor in Tripuraneni Gopi Chand’s film “Priyuralu”. Sadly this film and other of Jaggaiah’s other films in the early part of his career were not successful and went unnoticed. But he came into lime light with his successful movies “Ardhangi, and Bangaru Papa”.  Soon many other films followed. He was a second lead in Vijaya’s “Appu Chesi Pappu Koodu” and was a villain in “Atma Balam.” He played a comic villain in “Todi Kodallu” and “Kalasi Unte Kaladu Sukham”. He played the good samaritan in “Aaradhana” and “Velugu Needalu” and was a jealous husband in “Dr. Chakravarthy.” Numerous roles followed and Jaggaiah made all the roles memorable with his unique dialogue delivery and expressions. He achieved eternal glory with his portrayal of Rutherford from the timeless classic, “Alluri Seetha Rama Raju”

Though he was successful as a hero Jaggaiah took up character roles in various other films and was considered as a versatile artist who can play any kind of role with ease. He essayed several roles such as hero, second lead, comedian and villain. He was very active for two decades in Telugu films in different character roles from 1950 to 1970. Later on, he became very choosy in picking up roles and acted very minimally till his death. “Detective Narada” directed by Vamsi is said to be his last movie.

He lent his voice to many actors in films dubbed from other languages. He dubbed for Tamil hero Sivaji Ganeshan and to the date Telugu people remember Sivaji Ganeshan with Jaggaiah’s voice. He also dubbed for Richard Attenborough in the dubbed Telugu version of the English film Jurassic Park.

He was a trendsetter for film industry as he was the first actor, anywhere from India, to join electoral politics, much before MGR and to have won the Parliament elections. He was elected to the 4th Lok Sabha from the Ongole Constituency as a Member of Parliament.

He had also produced a film “Padandi Munduku” which had won Rs. 50,000/- cash award from the government of Andhra Pradesh.

Other than acting and producing, Jaggaiah had a passion for literature and had translated many English literarary works into Telugu. He translated the Noble prize winning book “Geetanjali” by Ravindranath Tagore into Telugu with the name of “Ravindra Geetha”. He also translated Tagore’s famous play “Sacrifice” into Telugu with a title “Balidaanam”. Also, Jaggaiah had formal training in painting under the tutelage of the renowned painter, Adavi Bapiraju.

His talent and contributions towards the cause of arts did not go unnoticed. He was honoured with “Padma Bhushan” by the Government of India.

The Sanskrit Vishwa Vidyalaya, Delhi honoured him with a title “Kala Vachaspathi”. He got honorary doctorate D.Litt. from the Telugu university, Hyderabad. He received title of “Kalaprapoorna” from Andhra University and the title of “Kalaimamani” from Tamil Nadu Government.

His demise was unfortunate and bizarre as the doctors failed to check his blood clotting time during a hip replacement surgery which resulted in the failure of heart and brain and costing the millions of movie lovers a legend whose services were unforgettable.

Krishna Chaitanya.

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About krshychait

A working individual who has a great passion towards arts of India. The literary and cinema field have captured my imagination like no other.

14 comments

  1. Chandrakala

    He was the News reader for All India Radio and a generation used to be awakened by this famous greeting, “Namaskaram, Vaarthalu cahduvuthunnadi, Kongara Jaggaiah.” …. this was “news” to me.. He truly is an amazing actor….I love all his movies…especially “Dr. Chakravarthy” & “Alluri Seetha Rama Raju”….. thanks for sharing..

  2. Kiran

    Though he's more famous for his “kanchu kanTham”, I liked his innocent voice modulation, such as that in “appu chEsi pappu kooDu”, all the same.

  3. Kiran

    BTW, in “aatmabalam”, I think… he was offered the lead role but he chose to play the brother to the lead as it had better depth and recommended that the moviemakers could approach ANR for the lead role. He did that for several films which were offered to him for a lead role, and chose a different role in the same film that offered better scope to use his acting skills.

  4. Chandrakala…Yes he was such a talented person. He was also a trained painter tooo…. he used to dub for Pran and others when they acted in telugu

  5. Kiran

    BTW, in “aatmabalam”, I think… he was offered the lead role but he chose to play the brother to the lead as it had better depth and recommended that the moviemakers could approach ANR for the lead role. He did that for several films which were offered to him for a lead role, and chose a different role in the same film that offered better scope to use his acting skills.

  6. I remember the dubbing he gave for Pran in Chiru's Kodama Simham…

  7. Kiran

    < < he used to dub for Pran and others when they acted in telugu >>

    Probably even in Krishna's directorial venture “simhaasanam”.

  8. Rajendra

    i was fortunate enougth to watch him speaking on dais interacting with public at my home town.and his younger sisiter's youngest daughter was my classmate for several years in the school days.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Rajendra

    Kiran…idonot think pran is in Simhasanam you might mean Tamdrapaparayudu of krishanam raju as bussy,famously enacted by Mukkamala in earlier days inBobbiliyuddham.

  11. Kiran…Also I think he was the voice of Sivaji Ganesan in many of the dubbed ventures… I dont know whether he dubbed for Sivaji in Veera Pandya Katta Bommana…

  12. Rajendra

    Jaggayya was batchmate of NTR and alumnus of our college along with another galaxy of stars.and as per wiki his last movie was Detective Narada 1993.

  13. Rajendra…Thanks for pointing out bro… corrected the mistakes… Please check again…

  14. Kiran

    rajendra…I saw the film only in its first release (1986) and never again. I vaguely remember there was another Hindi artiste along with Amzad Khan in the film. Who was that? Was it not Praan? I remember Praan playing Bussie in Dasari-KrishnamRaju venture taanDrapaapaaraayuDu, yes. (Incidentally, taanDrapaapaaraayuDu is the last film for music director S. Rajeswara Rao.)

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