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On NTR’s birth anniversary, a look at how the Tollywood star transformed into an icon of Telugu pride

NT Rama Rao was among the biggest Telugu stars of his time, who effortlessly moved from the silver screen to the rough and tumble of Indian politics. A look at his life’s journey.

regional movies Updated: May 28, 2018 12:23 IST
Priyanka Sundar
Priyanka Sundar
Hindustan Times, Chennai
NTR,NT Rama Rao,NTR birthday
NT Rama Rao made a name for himself playing mythological characters in Telugu films.

On the birth anniversary of Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao, one of the many actors during his time who combined cinema and politics deftly, we take a look at how each played a huge part in shaping up the man he was. For starters, the man better known as NTR, began a political party called Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and came to power as chief minister of Andhra Pradesh after just nine months of forming it. With his oratory, he influenced the voters and broke the Congress rule in the state. All he did was to prod people into understanding that it was important to be identified as a proud Telugu state.

He became the people’s leader as he effortlessly moved from the silver screen to the rough and tumble of politics. It was a combination of his charisma and star power that initially catapulted him to political success and fame, but the man learnt the ropes of being a politician quickly enough.

NTR tapped the emotion of people by speaking of Telugu pride. He leveraged the notorious incident of the late Rajiv Gandhi, then a Congress general secretary insulting the Andhra Pradesh chief minister T Anjaiah and cleverly used it as an “atmagauravam” (self-respect) plank to woo voters in the state. NTR’s TDP swept to power in 1983 with a thumping majority barely nine months after he formed the party.

Read: A look at NT Rama Rao’s portrayal of Lord Krishna

But before he became the chief minister, it was speculated that NTR wasn’t interested in full-fledged politics and only wanted to be a Rajya Sabha member. He was reportedly slighted by the Congress which ignored his request.

Before plunging into politics, NTR specialised in playing the role of gods in mythological films. His performance as Ram especially was loved by people. So when he rode the ‘Telugu pride’ plank, these godly roles only helped to cement a secure political future.

Just over a decade later though, the sun began to set on NTR’s political life. Between 1992 and 1995, he tried to drown his misery by experimenting on the silver screen. By then, his family began to believe that NTR was heavily influenced by his second wife Lakshmi Parvathi. His son-in-law and current chief minister of Andra Pradesh, N Chandrababu Naidu, led a coup to dethrone him in August 1995 with the help of 200 MLAs. Naidu had the backing of NTR’s family too.

Former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh NT Rama Rao’s second marriage to Lakshmi Parvathi put a strain on his relationship with the rest of his family. ( Rajiv Gupta/HT Photo )

In January 1996, the legendary actor-turned politician died of cardiac arrest. It is widely believed that the coup resulted in the actor’s weakened heart, resulting in his death.

On the eve of NTR’s birth anniversary on Sunday, his son Balakrishna had announced that director Krish Jagarlamudi would be helming the biopic, in which he would play the role of his father. Not just him, Ram Gopal Varma had also announced a biopic, but to be presented from the perspective of his second wife Lakshmi Parvathi. While Balakrishna is hoping to release the film in time for the assembly elections to be held in 2019, RGV is yet to make any announcement.

Vice President M Venkiah Naidu at the launch of a NTR biopic in Hyderabad in March this year. ( PTI )

Even on NTR’s 95th birth anniversary, he remains an enigma for his fans who still try to piece together the man behind the actor.

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First Published: May 28, 2018 12:18 IST