Prolific filmmaker, studio owner, politician and recipient of the Padma Bhushan and Dadasaheb Phalke awards, D Rama Naidu produced films mainly in Telugu, as well as Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi, Oriya, Punjabi, Bengali and English. Founding his company Suresh Productions in 1963, he went on to produce more than 130 films in a career spanning approximately five decades. He holds the record for producing the highest number of films by an individual. His hit films include Srikrishna Tulabharam (1966), Prem Nagar (1974), Ahana Pellanta (1987), Bobbili Raja (1990) which starred his son Venkatesh, Indrudu Chandrudu (1989) starring Kamal Haasan, and Malliswari (2004) starring Venkatesh and Katrina Kaif. His successful Hindi films include Tohfa (1984), Anari (1993), and Aaghaz (2000). He also set up the state-of-the-art Ramanaidu Film Studio in Hyderabad, and another studio in Visakhapatnam. Joining the Telugu Desam Party and representing Bapatla Lok Sabha constituency between 1999 and 2004, he stayed away from politics thereafter.
He was born Daggubati Ramanaidu on 6 June, 1936 into an agricultural family in Karamchedu, Prakasam district in present day Andhra Pradesh. Completing his schooling in the village, he joined college in Chirala and graduated from Presidency College, Chennai. Starting his career as a rice-mill owner, he later entered the transport business. His first brush with films came when his father joined with a relative and co-produced the Telugu film Nammina Bantu (1958), starring Akkineni Nageswara Rao and Savitri. Shutting down his rice factory, he moved to Madras in 1962, where he became acquainted with Telugu film personalities at the Andhra Club.
The following year, he collaborated with friends Tagirisa Hanumantha Rao and Yarlagadda Lakshmaiah Chowdary to co-produce the film Anuragam (1963). The film was commercially unsuccessful. He went on to establish his own production house, Suresh Productions, producing Telugu films such as the hit Ramudu Bheemudu (1964), Pratigna Palana (1965), Sri Krishna Tulabharam (1966), Stree Janma (1967), Paapa Kosam (1968) and Sepoy Chinnaiah (1969).
Partnering with B Nagi Reddy's sons in Madras, he formed Vijaya Suresh Combines, producing films under the banner. Real success came with Prem Nagar (1971), which achieved blockbuster status. Starring Akkineni Nageswara Rao and Vanisri, the film went on to be remade in Tamil and Hindi as Vasantha Maligai (1972) and Prem Nagar (1974), respectively. Ramanaidu produced more Tamil films during the 70s such as Namma Kuzhaindagal (1970), Tirumangalyam (1974), and Madhurageetham(1977).
To D Ramanaidu also goes credit for setting up a film studio in Hyderabad in 1983 with the help of the state government, at a time when all major studios were located in Madras. As he grew as a producer, he expanded from Telugu and Tamil, to branch into Kannada, Hindi, Malayalam, Marathi, Bengali, Oriya film, Gujarati, Bhojpuri, Assamese and Punjabi language cinema. Among his Hindi film productions are Dildaar (1977), Tohfa (1984), Anari (1993), and Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hain(1999). He also found a place in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2008 for making more than 130 films in 13 Indian languages.
He also faced the camera in a few films, mostly in his own productions. He featured in a full-length role for the first time in the Telugu film Hope (2007), which dealt with teenage suicide stemming from educational stress among students. The film also won the award for Best Film on Other Social Issues at the 54th National Film Awards.
Among the many honours he has received, he was conferred the third-highest civilian award in India, the Padma Bhushan, in 2012, in recognition of his contribution to Indian cinema. Prior to that, he was honoured with the Dada Saheb Phalke Award, the highest award for films in Indian cinema, the Raghupathi Venkaiah Award, and the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award – South for his work in Telugu cinema.
He also founded the Ramanaidu Charitable Trust in 1991, which contributes to philanthropic causes.
Ramanaidu stepped into politics, becoming a member of the Telugu Desam Party and representing Baptala constituency in Guntur District in the 13th Lok Sabha from 1999 to 2004. He lost the 2004 election for the same seat in the 14th Lok Sabha.
On the personal front, D Ramanaidu married Rajeshwari in 1958. The couple had three children, D. Suresh Babu, Lakshmi Daggubati, and Daggubati Venkatesh. While D Suresh Babu is a producer, Daggubati Venkatesh is a successful actor in Telugu films. Of Ramanaidu’s grandchildren, Rana Daggubati and Naga Chaitanya are actors in Telugu cinema.
D Ramanaidu passed away on 18 February 2015, in Hyderabad.