Chittor V. Nagaiah (born Vuppaladadiyam Nagayya) was a multilingual Indian film actor, thespian, composer, director, producer, writer and playback singer from Andhra Pradesh, India. Indian film journalist and the editor of Film India, Baburao Patel, described Nagiah as The Paul Muni of India. In his honor, the Mahati Chittor Nagaiah Kalakshetram of arts was established in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh.He was the lead protagonist in the most expensive 1940 Telugu production, Viswa Mohini touted to be the first film on the Indian motion picture world.
Nagaiah is starred in about 200 Telugu films, and 160 films in Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi. Widely recognized as one of the finest Indian method actors, his acting quality, was usually playing intense characters, often immersing himself in study of the real character’s traits and mannerisms.He was the first south Indian film star to be honoured with the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1965.
Nagaiah was born on 28 March 1904 in a Telugu speaking Brahmin family, Andhra Pradesh. His parents were Ramalinga Sarma and Venkata Lakshmamba. The family moved to Kuppam and later to Tirupati, in Chittoor district. He took up studies with the scholarship provided by the Tirupati Devasthanam and took his degree in Chittoor.
He worked as a clerk in a government office. Later, he turned into a journalist with “Andhra Patrika”. Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru influenced him and he participated in the freedom struggle (Dandi Satyagraha) in 1930. He worked with gramophone companies like Hutchins. He attended the Gowhati Congress conclave with S. Srinivasa Iyyengar.
He held strong association with ‘Rama Vilasa Sabha’ a cultural association in Chittoor. He performed several stage plays ‘Sarangadhara’, ‘Viswamithra Chitra Nilayam’, ‘Savitri’, ‘Bruhannala’ and ‘Ramadasu’ and took on the roles of saint poets Pothana, Vemana, Rama Dasu and Thyagiah. He won the gold medal for his female role as ‘Chitrangi’, in the play ‘Sarangadhara’. During that period he was married to Vijaya Lakshmi, but she died when she was giving birth to a girl child a year after. He then married Girija. Girija too died due to miscarriage in the eighth month. His daughter died of an undiagnosed illness. He participated in long stays at Ramana Maharshi Ashram.
He joined the Chennapuri Andhra Maha Sabha (CAMS), a popular cultural Association of Andhras in the erstwhile Madras. Nagaiah developed life-time friendship with Bommireddy Narasimha Reddy . H. M. Reddy formed the Rohini Pictures with the association of B.N. Reddy. The firm started its first venture in Telugu through the film ‘Gruhalakshmi’ in 1938, in which Nagaiah played a significant role, as the brother of the heroine Kannambha. Later, the association worked through several films with Vauhini Studios including ‘Vande Matharam’ (1939), ‘Sumangali’ (1940), ‘Devata’ (1941), ‘Bhakta Potana’ (1942), ‘Swarga Seema’ (1945), ‘Thygayya’ (1946). He started getting offers from the Telugu and Tamil film industries equally. Nagiah became the highest paid actor by the time he was doing the film ‘Beedalapatlu’.
The film ‘Thyagayya’ was released in the year 1946 . Nagaiah was the producer, director, music director and actor for the film ‘Thyagiah’. After that he made films ‘Naa Illu’ in 1953 and ‘Ramadasu’ in 1964, which won the National Film Award, ‘Chakradhari’ was a musical from 1948 based on the story of the Maharashtrian potter-saint Gora Kumbhar.