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6-min read

NTR Died a Pariah, Now TDP Has Resurrected Him on Celluloid to Stop Its 2019 Poll Burial

Chandrababu Naidu, the current chief minister of the state, apparently needs the man he is said to have betrayed to come to power. That he depends on a celluloid resurrection of his father-in-law tells the tale of his situation.

VVP Sharma | CNN-News18@vvemuri

Updated:January 10, 2019, 4:00 PM IST
NTR Died a Pariah, Now TDP Has Resurrected Him on Celluloid to Stop Its 2019 Poll Burial
The biopic wants the prospective voters of Andhra to remember NTR, the ‘nata sarvabhauma’ (emperor of acting).

This Caesar died a betrayed man. They all came to bury him. They have come now to exhume Caesar. Lest they are buried politically.

That in a nutshell is what the biopic about Nandamuri Tharaka Rama Rao (NTR), film star and former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, is all about.

In the process, the Nandamuri family, which for decades rode the crest of Andhra filmdom, will find its dirty linen being washed in public, thanks to the biopic that eulogises the person they once turned into a pariah.

Ironically, they are producing and financing that biopic to see if it can reverse their father’s party’s currently reversing fortunes. The same party, TDP, that their father founded and which they threw him out of.

The same party which NTR formed to fight the Congress; the same Congress which Naidu’s TDP is today friends with. So many ironies will come to relive their shifty past now that the film is released!

Chandrababu Naidu, the current chief minister of the state, apparently needs the man he is said to have betrayed to come to power. He is fighting with his back to the wall to survive a combined political onslaught in his state. That he depends on a celluloid resurrection of his father-in-law tells the tale of his situation.

The first biopic, NTR Kathanayakudu, released this Wednesday. It tells the story of the man, from a fresh graduate to the heartthrob of the state, ending with his pledge to enter politics to revive Telugu pride.

The second one, NTR Mahanayakudu, will tell the saga of his brush with politics, his successful experiment with ‘anti-Congressism’, his fight with Indira Gandhi, his political morality. The question is whether and how this biopic will tackle the ‘coup’ at home by his own son-in-law and his isolation from his own family.

The suspense remains on how the biopic deals with Laxmi Parvati, NTR’s second wife and the cause of his family troubles.

These biopics, produced by NTR’s son and actor Balakrishna, we are made to understand, want the prospective voters of Andhra to remember NTR the ‘nata sarvabhauma’ (emperor of acting), which was how he was introduced on the screen.

Director Ram Gopal Varma, much to the discomfiture of the NTR family, is coming up with yet another biopic, Laxmi’s NTR, which talks about two subjects taboo in the first two films: NTR’s life with Laxmi Parvati and the role of Chandrababu Naidu in the dethroning of NTR.

The battle lines for the electoral challenge in 2019 in Andhra, both the general and state elections, are thus being drawn at least on celluloid. How they turn the reel into real is to be seen.

In the starry-eyed state, the general public will store away the politics at the back of its mind and watch again and again not one, not two, but three films on their evergreen hero. NTR can still and perhaps will always draw crowds in Andhra.

Ask his grandson, Junior NTR! Here is the catch, politically. The films will be box office hits, no doubt. But will that automatically mean that the NTR fans will also vote for Telugu Desam Party (TDP)? The last word will be said on election day, not before.

The ‘nata sarvabhauma’ must have chuckled on Wednesday as his biopic filled the screens in his home state on Wednesday. What a travesty! There was a time, between 1991 and 1996, when his family turned against him after he married Laxmi Parvati.

They thought she would take NTR away from them. So the family rebelled against him. They thought she would be his political successor. So the TDP leaders led by Naidu rebelled against him.

NTR’s son, Harikrishna, who drove the former’s campaign vehicle and organised his campaign, was instrumental in planning the coup with Naidu. NTR, for all his gusto, remained a political novice. He died a recluse, unwanted and ignored.

But the family depended on him even after his death. His name mattered. His name alone mattered, actually. His son Balakrishna, with not much of acting in him, still rode the film charts as ‘Nandamuri’ Balakrishna. They survived thanks to that surname. Naidu must have garlanded NTR’s statues innumerable times.

There was a time when the son-in-law and the sons did not see eye to eye. Laxmi Parvati united them. After Naidu usurped power and became chief minister, the relations began to change.

A distance began to develop, though they remained family. In 1998, Harikrishna wanted Naidu to support the BJP whereas the latter was all for the United Front. Their relations strained.

Harikrishna had other reasons to dislike Naidu. He made Harikrishna a minister, but he had to step down as he could not win an assembly election within the stipulated six months. Naidu hardly gave credence to whatever Harikrishna said. Finally, they parted on bitter terms. Harikrishna died recently and will thus not witness the impact of the biopic on his family and Naidu’s politics.

In the 2009 elections, the credit for the TDP campaign went to Junior NTR, grandson of NTR and son of Harikrishna. Harikrishna was the ‘sarathi” (charioteer) of Chaitanya Ratham, NTR’s campaign vehicle as he launched Telugu Desam in 1982. Junior NTR, clad in khakis like his grandfather and with a startling resemblance to him, also travelled in the Chaitanya Ratham in 2009. The people who had seen the original NTR in his chariot in 1982, saw him again in the form of his grandson 27 years later. The junior’s image went up in people’s minds.

But the young actor, who is a powerful draw even today, apparently drifted away from Naidu. Nobody confirms it but it is said that Naidu’s son Nara Lokesh, an introvert the father is desperately trying to push up in the party organisation, paled in comparison to Junior NTR, who has a formidable presence, is extremely popular and known for his angry young man image.

And so did Daggubati Purandhareshwari, NTR’s daughter whose husband and Naidu, as sons-in-law of NTR were pals at one time, especially at the time they all organised the coup. The daughter, also a formidable personality, was a Union minister in the Congress government and is now in the BJP.

NTR’s son Balakrishna, the family ‘head’ now, however, stands with Naidu along with other members of the family. His daughter married Naidu’s son, Lokesh.

Thus stands divided the immediate family of NTR on the Naidu question. The biopic brought them together after the message was passed along that they would belittle NTR if they did not come together for the film’s release. That’s why, the entire family was present at the release of the film’s trailer. Naidu was not there, but was represented by his wife, NTR’s daughter Bhuvaneshwari. They all spoke. Junior NTR, his cousins, his uncles and aunts. They spoke for themselves, as individuals and not as a family.

NTR, for them, was not one but two persons. One was their father. The other was Laxmi Parvati’s husband. The biopic, whatever its political or electoral intent, must have bridged the family’s emotional chasm for the moment. But there is one person who is aloof, distanced from all this sentimentality, anxious to know if the biopic will make the TDP a box office hit in the elections.

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