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Goodbye, Shobhan Babu

March 21, 2008 22:39 IST

It happens very rarely. If there is one actor in the Indian film industry who preferred to retire at a time when he was much in demand, it is the Telugu actor Shobhan Babu.

Though he had made a conscious decision to take a complete break from the film industry at the age of 60, he chose to bid farewell to films a year earlier. 

Seldom do you see top stars leaving the comfort and the pay-packet that comes from films. But Shobhan Babu was a different person who worked in the film industry on his terms, and to him discipline was the most important thing in life.  

After enjoying a decade of quiet retired life, he passed away on the March 20, at the age of 71.

Shobhan Babu was born in a small village, Chinna Nandigama, on January 14, 1937, in a middle-class family. He was good in studies, and was always a film buff. He joined AC College Guntur, and became a part of its drama troupe. He was much appreciated for his performance in a drama titled Punarjanma, and several people advised him to become a film actor. 

After completing graduation, he went to Chennai (then Madras) to become an actor. The Telugu film industry was centred around Madras in those days, and thus began Shobhan Babu's journey in the film industry.

With a photo album, he roamed around production offices, studios and showed it to many directors and producers. He got an opportunity to act in the film Daivabalam with NT Ramarao as the hero. The film released in September 1959, but did not fare well at the box office.

Yet he was lucky enough to get a second break in Bhaktha Shabari. From then on it was a smooth sailing for the handsome actor. He got many offers thanks to the patronage he received from established artists like NTR and Akkineni Nageshwara Rao.

Good breaks came in films featuring NTR and ANR which made him very popular. He acted in Seetharam Kalyanam, Bheeshma, Lava Kusha and Punayavathi with NTR, and in films like Chaduvukunna Ammaayilu, Poola Rangadu, Iddarammaayilu, and Buddhimanthudu with ANR.

But it took films like Narthanashaala and Veerabhimanyu to make Shobhan Babu a big hero.

His role as Abhimanyu in the big-budget Veerabhimanyu in 1965 made him a big star. The film was a blockbuster.

Then, films like Potti Pleaderu and Manushulu Maaraali further boosted his career. Manushulu Maaraali, by Gemini Productions, where he worked with Sharada, celebrated a silver jubilee run in several centres.

His first colour film Kalyana Mantapam gave him a lot of female fans, as did female oriented films like Mallepoovu and Jebu Donga. Then came his role as Lord Krishna in Budhdhimanthudu.

Shobhan Babu was also lucky to have acted with the best of the directors in the industry. He worked with some top directors like  Madhusudhana Rao, Kamalakara Kameshwara Rao, Dasari Narayana Rao, K Raghavendra Rao, K Bapayya, Depak Tatineni Ramarao, K Vishwanath, Krishna, A Kodandarami Reddy,  Raja Chandra, EVV Sathyanarayana, BV Prasad, Kodi Ramakrishna, Raviraja Pinisetty  and Boyina Subbarao.

As most of Shobhan's films were centred around female protagonists, he had acted with all the leading actresses. With Jayasudha, he had 31 films and with Vanishree, 28, plus more than ten films each with Jayaprada and Sharada. 

His name was also linked with many of his leading ladies but he remained either silent or just laughed it off whenever such questions were directed at him.

It is said that he never showed starry airs, even when he was the top star, and treated every person with respect. He was very strict about his pay packet and did not spare even the topmost producers when they defaulted on his payments.  

From the day he retired, he stayed away from all film functions and lived like an ordinary person in Chennai. He had made Chennai his home ever since he came all the way from his native place to become an actor of Telugu films.

He had saved enough money for a comfortable living, and had given the best of education to his children. He is also said to have invested his money wisely.

Time has come to bid adieu to one of the most handsome stars of Telugu cinema.

RG Vijayasarathy