Born in 1896, in the then Princely State of Mysore, Mysore Venkatappa Subbaiah Naidu was primarily a stage artiste, who, like his fellow peers, soon followed suit into films, especially during the silent films era.
Naidu began his theatre career playing bit roles and soon began to flourish as an actor to graduate into lead roles thereby gaining a sizable fan following in the Kannada theatre circles.
Known for his brawny roles which he essayed with vigour and bestowed with a mellifluous voice that gave a unique feel to the stage music, Naidu’s film career was marked with frequent collaborations with pioneer R Nagendra Rao, who himself was a famed stage and film personality. They made early Kannada films such as Vasantsena (1941), Satya Harishchandra (1943), and Mahatma Kabir (1947) among others. Naidu’s final screen appearance was in the 1958 film Bhaktha Prahalada on the sets of which he burnt his fingers. Following this, he quit films while continuing to perform on stage.
Subbaiah Naidu is credited with introducing to Kannada stage the technology to transition between scenes without downing the curtains and the first to also use dimmer lighting. He was also the first to introduce playback singing and dubbing in Kannada films with his production, Satya Harischandra.
In recognition of his work in theatre, he was awarded the coveted Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1961.
Naidu died on 21 July 1962 of cardiac arrest in Mandya, where he was actively involved in theatre with his troupe, Sahitya Samrajya Nataka Mandali. He was playing the role of Ambarisha in the play. His body was brought to Bangalore the same day and public viewing was held at Subedar Chatram Road. Hearing the news of his death, his wife Munivenkatamma too passed away in grief the very same day.