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.