Attempting a biopic about Telugu cinema giant Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao, popularly known as NTR, is a gargantuan task.
NTR’s film career spanned nearly five decades and served the undivided state of Andhra Pradesh in south India as a three-term chief minister.
Directed by Krish Jagarlamudi, the first of the two-part film titled ‘NTR Kathanayakudu’ features NTR’s son Nandamuri Balakrishna stepping into his father’s shoes to play the lead role. Vidya Balan plays the role of NTR’s wife Basavatarakam.
While the first part, which deals with NTR’s film career, releases now, the second part titled ‘NTR Mahanayakudu’ focuses on his political career and is scheduled for release in February.
In the early 80s, NTR founded the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) as a counter to India’s grand old Congress party and literally helped establish Andhra cultural identity at a time when North Indians referred to anyone south of the Vindhyas mountain range as a Madrasi.
Perhaps Balakrishna, known as Balayya in the film industry, is the best choice to play the role of the icon. Earlier, rumours claimed that NTR’s grandson, Junior NTR, a top-billed star in the Telugu film industry, was also being considered for the role. But he politely declined for he knows his limitations — especially his short stature, something his grandfather did not have.
Balakrishna in an interview to a Telugu TV channel said: “My father was my deity and mentor. I always wanted to play characters which he did. But I was unsure if people would watch such movies today. But, ‘NTR: Kathanayakudu’ and ‘NTR: Mahanayakudu’ fulfilled my desire to play all the characters played by my father.”
Production stills and teasers show Balayya fit the bill to a T. Credit should go to Krish, a meticulous director, who is not the type who would compromise on anything. He has proved this in ‘Kanche’, filmed against the backdrop of Nazi Germany. This film eventually won him the Indian National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Telugu. His ‘Gautamiputra Satakarni’, also starring Balakrishna, was critically acclaimed and turned out to be box office hit.
NTR, who hailed from a farming Kamma community in Krishna district of the Andhra region, began his career as a sub registrar during the British Raj. Thanks to his handsome features he got a role in a Telugu social film ‘Mana Desam’, directed by LV Prasad in 1949.
Later, in the 1950s he gained popularity for his portrayals of Hindu deities, especially Krishna and Rama. In a film career spanning more than five decades, NTR did 300 films. He and his contemporary Akkineni Nageswara Rao were considered the pillars of the Telugu film industry.
NTR was not satisfied with simply facing the camera, he also produced and directed several films. He had built the then state of the art Ramakrishna Theatres and studios at Musheerabad and Nacharam in Hyderabad, where he produced several films, most notably ‘Dana Veera Shura Karna’ and ‘Vishwamitra’, which had Meenakshi Sheshadri in the lead role as Menaka. NTR’s film ‘Lava Kusa’ was the first full-length Telugu film shot in colour in 1963.
It was a treat to watch NTR in mythological roles and he emoted well in social and fantasy roles as well. Besides Telugu, he has also acted in a few Tamil films. He was endearingly revered as Viswa Vikhyatha Nata Sarvabhouma (World Renowned Greatest Actor). He was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1968, for his contribution to Indian cinema.
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‘NTR Kathanayakudu’ releases in the UAE on January 10.