Yesterday, it was his birthday. I might be cursed and sworn at for having him put in the category of mortals. He is a legend alright, that legend who could transform image of any God to his own self. He could be Lord Rama on screen, and people would wonder if God really looked so divine whenever he existed. He could romance like Lord Krishna, and people would adore his ‘mischievous’ antics with the Gopikas and his implorations with his many wives. When he was Shiva or Yama, people would be petrified, seeing a destroyer in act. He could literally bring a certain chill down the spine with his powerful diction and usage of classy phrases. He brought in the culture where viewers would take his ‘Aarthi’ right in front of TV sets, praying to him. I still remember my mother bursting with emotions looking at him performing sentiments. He brought in a new meaning to the term RETRO with his swinging shoes and bell bottoms. He practically romanced the leading lady of every generation in style and confidence. He shook the State of Andhra with his mere words and ruled people with kingship.
NTR in one of the coveted roles as ‘Ravana’in Bhookailas
NTR, a three lettered powerful association with that man who changed the face of Telugu celluloid for many years. There was no better actor who could live up any role with ease. There was no better personality who would treat everyone equally on the sets. There was no such legend who redefined the style of diction and performance with Godly roles. NTR was a sensation beyond imagination, a rage beyond reach. He was and continues to be that reference book for actors to enhance the skill of enacting. He was a persona many tried to be like, but couldn’t even get closer to the imitation.
Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao alias NTR, was born on 28 May 1923 in Nimmakuru, a small village in Gudivada taluk of Krishna District, which was a part of the erstwhile Madras Presidency of British India, to a farming couple Nandamuri Lakshmaiah Chowdary and Venkata Ramamma. From a young age he showed an interest in singing and developed a baritone singing voice as a young man. He was also a good painter, and had won a prize in a state-level painting competition.
In his earlier days into acting
NTR joined the Andhra-Christian College at Guntur for pursuing his Bachelor of Arts course in 1945. During this time, he started performing and directing many stage plays like Chesina Paapam along with actors Jaggayya, Mukkamala and K. V. S. Sarma. After his graduation, NTR passed the Madras Service Commission Exam and settled down in a sub registrar’s job at Mangalagiri. He later quit this job to pursue acting on a serious note.
NTR started his film career playing a small role as a police sub-inspector in the movie Mana Desam (1949). Following this, he appeared in Palletoori Pilla, directed by B. A. Subba Rao, which marked the first occasion where Rama Rao and his contemporary Akkineni Nageswara Rao (ANR) acted together for the first time. The film was a commercial hit and ran for more than 100 days in 6 centres. He got his major breakthrough with the film Paathala Bhairavi directed by K. V. Reddy, in 1951, where he played the role of a prince. He soon became famous for his commercial film roles, usually depicting an adventurous prince saving a damsel in distress.
His first mythological film was in 1957, where he portrayed Lord Krishna in the film Maya Bazaar, which went on to become a blockbuster that set a breakthrough. Maya Bazaar was and still continues to be the best film overall for many viewers in Andhra. NTR essayed the role of Lord Krishna in 17 films, including some landmark films like Sri Krishnarjuna Yudham (1962), the Tamil film Karnan (1964) and Daana Veera Soora Karna (1977). He was also famous for his portrayal of Lord Rama, essaying that role in films like Lava Kusha (1963), Shri Ramanjaneya Yuddham (1974) and Shri Rama Pattabhishekham (1978) to name a few. He has also portrayed other characters from the Ramayana, such as Ravana in Bhookailas (1958) and Seetharama Kalyanam (1961). He portrayed Lord Vishnu in films like Sri Venkateswara Mahatyam (1960) among others and Lord Shiva in Dakshayagnam (1962). He has also enacted the roles of Mahabharatha characters, such as Bheeshma, Arjuna,Karna and Duryodhana. These mythological roles catapulted him to the top of Telugu film stardom and he soon achieved a demigod status in Andhra Pradesh.
With ANR in ‘Gundemma katha’
In the latter half of his career, NTR became a screenwriter. Though he received no formal academic training in movie script writing, he authored several screen plays for his own movies as well as for other producer’s movies. He was so dedicated to his profession that he would often learn new things in order to portray a particular character on-screen perfectly and realistically. At the age of 40, he learnt dance from the renowned Kuchipudi dancer Vempati Chinna Satyam for his role in the film Nartanasala (1963)
His words were the weapons of change!
NTR’s film career spanned about 44 years. During this period he acted in a total of 320 films, with 186 of them being commercial films, 55 of them being folklore films, 42 of them being mythological films and 13 of them being historical films. 140 of his films celebrated hundred days and 33 films celebrated silver Jubilees while six of his films ran more than 50 weeks. He received three National Film Awards and one Filmfare Award South. His achievements in films was honored with the institution of the NTR National Award in 1996, which is awarded as part of the Nandi Awards ceremony to a prominent film personality for lifetime contribution to Indian cinema
Addressing crowds during the Telugu Desam party campaign
NTR entered politics in early 1982, following widespread reports in the media about his mulling an entry into politics. He founded the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) on 29 March 1982 in Hyderabad. His stated reason for entering politics and launching his own party was based on a historic need to rid Andhra Pradesh of the corrupt and inept Congress rule.. At a time when the then PM Indira Gandhi was cracking down on state governments led by opposition parties, NTR was one of the very few leaders who stood up to Gandhi and matched her charisma. NTR was elected as the Chief Minister of State into office three times, every win being a significant roller coaster ride for the competitors.
Taking a bow to a Legend called NTR! A mortal immortal for days now and the days to come!