Legendary actor NT Rama Rao was a doyen of Telugu cinema with an unmatched prowess in acting, writing, directing and producing films. He was also a wildly popular politician who was a three-time chief minister of Andhra Pradesh.
But what he is remembered best for are the characters he played from the Hindu epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana. And while he played Shiva, Vishnu, Rama and even Ravana, it is as Lord Krishna that he excelled, playing him 17 times!
NTR was successful in bringing alive qualities often associated with Krishna, at once playful and wise. On display, are not just stories which form the main thread of the two epics, but many side stories dealing with Krishna. His films also picked up many stories from the Bhagavata Purana. Another noticeable feature in his films is how well local tales about popular mythological characters are blended in.
On Janmashtami, Hindustan Times discusses some his most memorable work as Krishna.
Based on a popular folk tale by Sasirekha Parinayam on an episode from the Mahabharata, the story revolves around Krishna’s attempt to unite Arjuna’s son, Abhimanyu with his love, Balarama’s daughter. Aiding him in the process is Ghatotkacha (a character from the epic).
Vinayaka Chaviti (1957)
Based on a popular story of Syamantakopakhyanam (from Vishnu and the Bhagavata Puranas), read every year on Ganesh Chaturthi, the movie deals with interactions between Krishna and the Sun god and the fate of Syamantaka jewel.
Daana Veera Soora Karna (1977)
This film, based on popular episodes involving the trio of Karna, Krishna and Duryodhana from the Mahabharata, the film is remarkable for the fact that NTR played all the three characters.
Sri Krishna Pandaveeyam (1966)
This film, based on the adolescent years of Krishna and Pandavas (based on Adi Parva and Sabha Parva from the Mahabharata), was directed by NTR as well. NTR portrayed both Duryodhana and Krishna in this movie.
Tu Hi Ram Tu Hi Krishna (1976)
A film that again picks up episodes from the Mahabharata, sees NTR as Krishna who is weighed against all the ornaments and jewels owned by his second wife, Satyabhama and how the scale fails to budge.
Hare Krishna (1974)
Borrowing from the Krishna lore, the film shows how he destroys two demons after the Mahabharata war. He turns the first demon to ashes and kills the second with the help of Narada and Vasundhara, a heavenly beauty created by the gods.
Shri Krishna Satya (1971)
Yet another film based on the life of Krishna, this film also stars actor and politician Jayalalithaa as Satyabhama, his wife.
Shri Krishna Vijayam (1970)
The Mahabharata is a treasure trove of stories, we always knew. This film, too, is based on a small episode from the epic -- Vidya Pradarsanam to Panchali Parinayam.
Shri Krishnavataram (1967)
This film takes a broad look at the major episodes from the life of Krishna, borrowing heavily from both the Mahabharata and Bhagavata Purana.
This Tamil film takes a close look at the life of Karna, from the time of his birth to Kunti till his unfortunate end in the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
Sri Krishnarjuna Yudham (1963)
The story of this film combines elements from Parijatapaharanam, Subhadra Parinayam and Gayopakhyanam sequences appearing in the Mahabharata. While NTR plays Krishna, Akkineni Nageshwara Rao plays Arjuna.
Yet another popular film, the festival songs from the film are big hits even to this day.
Shri Krishnanjaneya Yuddham (1972)
This Telugu film directed by CS Rao revolves around Hanuman’s (Anjaneya) wait for Rama in the Dwaparayuga (the era of Krishna; Rama came as the Treta yuga, the era before Dwapara).
Shri Krishna Tulabharam (1966)
This story too deals with the life of Krishna but looks at it from Satyabhama’s perspective.