Adinarayana Rao was born in 1915 in Kakinada (some sources place his year of birth in 1918, in Vijayawada). He was introduced to the stage at a very young age of six, playing the role of "naarada" in the play: "Savitri" under Rajarajeswari Naatya Mandali's baton. He went on to study classical music under Patrayani Sitarama Sastry, a prominent personolity of those days, in Saluru, a major center for music in the early decades of this century. Later he completed his matriculation from Kakinada. At age 12, with an impressive talent to play many instruments, and literary interests, he started working as a music composer and a play writer.
He was highly popular in Kakinada theatre circles and was affectionately called "abbaayi gaaru", a name which he retained even after entering films. "Veedhi Gaayakulu", "Black Market", "Vasanta sena" were some of his plays. Starting his career at Burmah Shell Amateurs Troupe, he blossomed in to a big artist at the well-known, now almost forgotten, Young Mens Happy Club, which had given famous artistes like Gandikota Jagannatham, S.V. Ranga Rao, Relangi Venkata Ramayya, Anjali Devi to Telugu Cinema/stage. It was here that he met his future wife, Anjali, who was under his tutelage and later went on to become a leading actress of the Indian silver screen.
His first attempt to join the film field was in 1941. Chittur V. Nagayya, the legendary actor, director and music composer was ruling the Telugu film field supreme with his compositions in films like "vandEmaataram" (1939), "sumangaLi" (1940), "dEvata" (1941). Highly influenced and mesmerized by his music, Adinarayana Rao wanted to work under the maestro. He was introduced to Nagayya by film star A. S. Giri (of sumangaLi fame). He was asked to come after 1-2 months, but somehow he did n't go to Madras and remained away from film field till mid-40s.
The following composition by him written for the play: "Veedhi Gaayakulu" in 1944, shows his admiration and respect for Nagayya:
naagayya naTanalO naaNyamerungaka
#Saigal# naTanakai sambhramEla .........
It is in veteran film maker B V Ramanandam's, "varudhini" (1946) he got his first break in films. The oppurtunity came through S.V. Ranga Rao, nephew of Ramanandam and a YMHC member (incidentally this was the debut film for Rangarao too). Although he was initially assigned to write lyrics and compose music, professional differences led to the abrupt ending of the project after recording just two songs, and he returned to Kakinada.
Later he worked for a couple of films writing lyrics and/or composing music, which include C. Pullayya's (another native of Kakinada), the highly successful, "Gollabhama" (1947, co-MD: Dinakara Rao), in which Anjali made her debut. The songs/verses from Gollabhama are a real delight to hear; chandamaama andamaina, priyatamaa!, bhoopati jampitin, valapu teniyalu, etc. They are in my opinion ahead of their time in terms of pace (can be compared to the ones from 60s! It would be of great interest to me to know, who composed which song).
Its through "palleToori pilla" (1950), a film based on Sheridon's play: "Pijjaro", he became a full-fledged music director, thanks to his friend B A Subba Rao, who was making his directorial debut and went on to make a highly successful career. His adaptation of Spanish tunes - "dheera kampanaa" - with superb orchestration, and usage of Telugu folk melodies set new trends. Songs like: chiTapaTa chinukula duppaTi taDisenu, Saanta vanTi pilla lEdOyi (Ghantasala singing this beautifully) were treats to music lovers. His next venture; "tilOttama" (1951) was a disappointment. Its music reached very few people since it was neither a commercial success at box-office nor were the songs released on records.
In 1949 he founded "Aswini Pictures" with Akkineni Nageswara Rao and makeup artist K. Gopala Rao, producing "maayalamaari" (1951, Tamil: Mayakkaari). Though it ran for 100 days, the music was only a moderate success. So was "annadaata" (1954), made on the same banner. He wrote some lyrics for "palletoori pilla" and "annadaata" too. "annadaata" also heralded the beginning of the successful team with himself, ANR & Anjali (in lead cast) and Director Vedantam Raghavayya, which continued unbroken for more than a decade.
In 1951 he separated from Aswini banner and founded his own production house; "Anjali Pictures" making "paradESi" (1953, Tamil: Poongottai, with songs like: pilichindi kaluva puvvu - jikki, nEnenduku raavaali - Jikki, Pithapuram, etc.) under the direction of L. V. Prasad. The superb compositions in big budget "anaarkali" (1955) and "suvarNna sundari (1957) that followed under this banner brought him tremendous recognition.
Volumes can be written on these two great musicals. Though a couple of tunes were partly based on Ramachandra Chitalkar's tunes from Hindi version of "Anarkaali" (1953) rest showed his enormous creative talents. The song "raajasekharaa nee pai moju teera leduraa" still lingers on every one's tongue. So are: kalise nelaraaju kaluva chelini - Ghantasala, Jikki, sOjaa raajakumari - A. M. Rajah.
Suvarna Sundari was the high point in his career. It was a blockbuster hit running to full houses at all the places it was released for over 6 months. Described as the "Bible to box-office laws" by film critics, it showed the way to later day "formula" filmmakers. It had all the elements, in proper dosage, to attract all sections of film goers. "piluvakuraa alugakuraa, haayihaayigaa aamani saage, bommalammaa bommalu, Eraa manapaaTi dheerulevvaruraa" remain ever-green hits. The raagamaalika set to four Hindusthani Ragas made him very popular and won him many awards and recognition all over India! Some critics unfairly accused him of plagiarising "piluvakuraa" and "haayi haayigaa" tunes from Vasant Desai's _milan hon kaise_ ("Dhuaan" 1953) and Anil Biswas's _ritu aaya, ritu jaaya_ ("Hamdard" 1953) respectively. But there is very little truth in that. No one can deny the creative prowess in his works.
Riding high on the success, he embarked on his second Hindi production: "Phoolon Ki Sej" (1964), based on Gulshan Nanda's novel: "andheri biran", with big starring. It turned out to be his last hindi film. This film virtually lead the couple to ruins, losing whatever they earned over 17 years. It was a major setback especially at a time when Anjali was considering her retirement from the films after acting in 100 films. Even melodious songs like: aa tu jaraa dil mein (Lata, Mukhesh), abhin jaa rasiya (Lata, Manna), pyar ko madhur madhur (Asha, Rafi), taronki aankhon ka (Lata) could not stop the disaster.
It took nearly a decade for the next 'big' hit from Adinarayanarao's house; "bhakta tukaram" (1973), portraiting the life-story of saint-composer Tukaram. This is yet another gem from the master with memorable songs like: ghanaa ghana sundaraa - Ghantasala, poojaku vELaayeraa - P. Susila, unnaavaa asalunnaavaa - Ghantasala, sari sari vagalu telisera - P.Susila etc.
"alluuri seetaraama raaju" (1974), the life-story of revolutionary freedom-fighter, followed soon, making his name well-known to the next generation of Telugus, gaining fame to both the producer/actor Krishna and Adinarayana rao himself. The whole audience waited along with the heroine for seetaramaraju while she was singing "vastaaDu naa rOju" (P. Susila). SriSri's "telugu veera levaraa deeksha booni saagaraa" was immortalised by his tune and has become a classic patriotic song. He never worked for any other production houses in the later period, except for film actor Krishna's productions.
His creation "mahaakavi kshEtrayy" (1978) is a testimony to his quest for perfection and authenticity. He travelled through the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh, along with well known Telugu poet, historian and film-writer Arudra, interviewing several dEvadaasis, who have been singing kshEtrayya padam-s for centuries. Unfortunately such thorough fieldwork, and compositions like: ashTa vidha naayika varNana, Sreepati sutu baariki (Ramakrishna), chedero naa saamiki (swapna sundari, famous danseuse) could not guarantee the film's commercial success.
Certainly we can not forget his other films like; "adutta vittu penn" (1959, Tamil, with P B Sreenivas's solo "Vaadaada malar"), "Runaanubandham" (1960, "andamain baava aavu paala kova", "nindu punnami nela"), "swarNa manjari" (1962, madhuramaina guru deevana - Nagayya, P. Susila, raavE naa praNaya roopiNi - Ghantasala), "satee sakkubayi" (1966, ranga rangaa rangayanandi - Ghantasala). The last one was also dubbed in to Marathi as "sakhu ali pandarpura" (1969), winning critical acclaims in Maharashtra too. "ammakOsam" (1971), "agni pareeksha" (1970, (konDapai ninDugaa koluvunna maa talli kanakadurga - Ghantasala), "kalyaaNa manDapam" (1971), "pedda koDuku" (1973), "kannavaari yillu" (1978) are his other films.
Apart from his own compositions he left his imprint on the music field indirectly too. Later highly successful music directors; Totakura Venkata Raju (a.k.a T V Raju), Satyam and Lakshmikant-Pyarelal duo (Phoolonki Sej) worked as his assistants.
An "unusual influence of Hindusthani classical music and Marathi Natya Sangeet" on Telugu film music is attributed to him. Early Marathi (and Parsi) touring drama troupes left their indelible mark on Telugu stage by the end of 19th century. It is a no surprise since Adinarayanarao who followed the music styles keenly and heard the music of legendary artists of Telugu stage like Tungala Chalapati Rao, K. Raghuramayya, Jonnavittula Seshagiri Rao, C.S.R. Anjaneyulu, et al grasped these styles as well.
His exposure to classical music and stage music from early years at Saluru and Vijayanagaram certainly helped him in better understanding of Hindustani music. Well known music critic V.A.K. Rangarao credits Adinrayana Rao for introducing Hindustani music in contemporary flavour and simplified orchsetration, and thereby impressing both laymen audience as well cognoscenti. It is this music that survives him enthralling all the music lovers.