In no order:
Featuring amongst the finest sreenplays written for a Telugu film. There isn't a single romantic dialogue between NTR and Savitri, yet the chemistry builds so beautifully.
Plus, Missamma was a great comedy. Some truly hilarious comic segments:
a. "Meeku Meere, Maaku Meme" where Savitri tries teaching ANR classical singing. Gets better when NTR wants to be a member of the audience and ANR is scared to death.
b. Relangi and his "thailam" were awesome, especially the part where he starts off with "Nootiki padi paallu panthulugare manchivaaru" and rips off both ANR and Jamuna.
c. NTR all through! Like, in the "Raavoyi Chandamama" song where he is confused about why his voice suddenly turned feminine.
There are movies that define genres. For Telugu, this was the last one yet (the previous one being Aha Naa Pellanta).
This one enters my list for its repeat value - you can watch Shiva any number of times. It taught Tollywood the virtues of technical slickness and editing, it made a director a household name for the first (and only) time in AP, and it saved Nagarjuna from forever being a B and C center hero and put him on the radar screen of the urban youth.
3. Rudra Veena
The "Nenu Saitam" movie.
If they had handled the beating up goons part at the toddy compound better, this would have been as inspiring as a film could get. That was the only thing about this one that every ordinary man cannot do. Otherwise, this was our own Swades, long before Swades happened. This was the power of Nenu Saitam.
I think Chiranjeevi is one of the finest actors AP has produced. It saddens me when I see people on assorted Telugu forums taking sides based on the castes of actors. Despite the lines their own idols spout on screen, including, spectacularly, in this one.
4. Swati Mutyam
"Anda danda undaalani Kodanda Ramuni nammukunte
Gunde leni manishalle ninu konda konalakodilesaada"
It turned out that God didn't leave her for the hills and valleys, after all.
It is to K Vishwanath's credit that he made the most unlikely of hits in Telugu. Movies completely non-mass, highly esoteric themes, and a 90% strike rate at the BO. I believe he has the highest success rate of any Telugu director.
I watched Swati Mutyam when I was about 13. I did not understand much of it, but I remember I was still in tears at the end when Kamal Haasan finally died.
I do not think I understand several of K Vishwanath's films fully still. Each time I see some of them again, I gain a new perspective. Perhaps some part of the reason for that is that when I first saw them, I was too young and immature for the themes, and now I can't see them with a fresh mind.
If ever there was someone who deserved the Dadasaheb Phalke, it is Vishwanath - he made beautiful art films that were huge commercial hits. Wonder when the government will wake up.
5. Nuvvu Naaku Nachchav
I became a fan of Venkatesh with this film, which for me is a big deal since I never thought I could be a fan of any actor - I have had a poor image of "fans" since most in AP have come across to me people who will go to ridiculous extents to support someone who already has everything, and is not about to share it. How low should your self-esteem be for you to dedicate your existence to and get into trouble for someone who isn't a Gandhi or a Mother Theresa?
Detours aside, Nuvvu Naaku Nachchav gave me some of the most lovely times in a movie theater - I was laughing out aloud in almost every scene. This film showed how pure creativity in dialogues can make a film. It was so sheerly originally hilarious in every scene, and it so disciplinedly stuck to being a comedy even in the second half when almost every moviemaker screws up. Venky is perhaps the best in comedy among lead heroes in Telugu.