Padmanabham (79) died at his residence in Chennai following a heart attack.
He took over the baton from thespians like the late Relangi Venkataramaiah and Ramana Reddy after acting along with them in small roles in the golden era of Telugu cinema in the 50s and 60s. He had been ruling the roost till the mid-70s when the late Rajababu burst on the scene and replaced him.
Padmanabham acted in 400 films and directed two films, one of which `Kathanayaki Molla’ (1970) won him accolades besides the Nandi award of the State Government.
Like many stalwarts of the Telugu cinema, he too switched to cinema from the theatre.
Born on August 20, 1931 at Simhadripuram village, near Pulivendula, in Kadapa district to Santha and Basavaraju Venkata Seshaiah, Padmanabham took to the stage at a very tender age.
Basavaraju Venkata Padmanabha Rao began his film career in 1943 when he was just 12 years old with the film Maayalokam.
Since then, Padmanabham acted in more than 400 movies. Shavukaaru, released in 1949, was his first major hit. It also gave him a footing as a comedian. The very next year, Paatala Bhairavi came along. It helped him find a permanent place in the world of Telugu cinema.
Kathanayaki Molla, which he directed in 1969, fetched him the AP Government’s award. Padmanabham directed eight films in all. He introduced SP Balasubrahmanyam to the film industry in Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna. He recently acted in Telugu movies Chakram and Tata Birla Madhyalo Laila.
Padmanabham suffered a heart attack at 8:30 am this morning at his Rangarajapuram residence in Chennai while reading a newspaper, his family members said.
He is survived by his wife, two sons and five daughters.
Like his predecessor, the ace comedian Kasturi Siva Rao, Padmanabham too died penniless.