NTR, man of many roles

N T Ramarao

N T Ramarao


January 18 is the 25th death anniversary of the legendary actor-cum-politician

It was around 6 am on 18th January 1996, I was having my cup of coffee at a roadside hotel near the bus station in our seedy town of Badvel. The radio in the hotel was relaying the morning 5-minute English news bulletin from Delhi on the Kadapa radio station. All of a sudden, the newsreader took a long pause and broke the sad and devastating news saying that "the former CM of Andhra Pradesh, N T Ramarao died of a massive cardiac arrest in the wee hours this morning". And the bulletin ended. The small group of people who were there in the hotel couldn't believe when I told them the sad news in Telugu. His sudden demise was really a big shock for all those who know that NTR followed a strict health regimen and was very healthy.

A dutiful son: Even as a child, according to his biographers K Chandrahas and K Lakshminarayana, NTR often went to the fields with his parents and those visits instilled in him values and the principle of hard working. This made NTR what he was. He used to wake up very early in the morning and practise yoga and meditation.

As a high school student, NTR was bright and was known for his beautiful hand and illustrations. He even helped his father in his milk business and till the end he remained to be a dutiful son. But NTR failed in the Intermediate exams and was forced to marry at an early age. At this stage he was desperately in need of a job and for some time he worked as a court attender for a salary of 64 rupees. Later he tried his hand in tobacco business and running a printing press but soon he burnt his fingers and wound them up.

A talented and tenacious

student: Later NTR's father forced him to pursue a B A course in A C College Guntur, much against his will. NTR used to walk three kilometres to catch a train in Vijayawada to go to Guntur and this he did for three years. It was here that the actor in NTR came out and made waves on the stage when acting in combination with friend Kongara Jaggaiah. Within no time NTR made a name and this fetched him straight away an offer to act as the hero in a film from none other than producer and director C Pullaiah. As his aim was to clear the B A exams in one attempt, NTR had the temerity to turn down the offer. Later in the exams for the post of Sub -Registrar, NTR was one among the seven successful candidates out of about 937 but he worked in that post only for 11 days before finally boarding a train to Madras for a successful and scintillating acting career.

A people's person: When one becomes successful, most of us tend to use name and clout to farther our personal aggrandisement. Only a few persons readily spare their power and purse for a public cause. NTR belonged to the latter category of people. Soon in his acting career he, taking a cue from the lives of actors like Bellary Raghava and Prithviraj Kapoor, NTR also took up the cause of helping people in the wake of severe drought in Rayalaseema in 1952.

With a small troupe of actors, NTR toured the state, staging shows and collecting donations for the Rayalaseema drought victims. In 60s and 70s, floods in Bihar were as regular as clockwork and almost every time NTR went to people with a hat in hand and gave succour to people outside the State. He also gave his mite to many such people's causes and this laid the foundation for him for a memorable role as a people's leader in real life in later days.

A supportive man: Though he became a successful and busy hero, NTR was always down to earth, helpful and supportive. He helped many new, and aspiring actors and other artists. NTR lent a hand to Sobhan Babu when he was struggling for film offers. Again when the young and ambitious Aswini Dutt came to Chennai to make a movie and approached NTR, he readily gave him dates and paired him with director Bapaiah. The rest is history. Aswini Dutt became a mega producer and made many blockbuster movies with NTR. For scores of film actors and artists, NTR gave a break in one way or other.

Again it was NTR who introduced Dr. C Narayana Reddy as a lyricist and the writer went on to pen thousands of memorable songs, winning many laurels. Their friendship continued even after NTR became a CM. Actor Satyanaraya is yet another actor who found in NTR a friend, guide and philosopher.

A superstitious star: NTR's love for the number 9 is too well known. The number plate on his official car bore 9999. Little is known about why he liked the number but perhaps destiny had it-- his native village "Nimmakuru" has nine letter in English, his first initial 'Nandamuri' too has nine letters in English and with his two initial, the name, 'N T Rama Rao' is also 9 in letters. And finally he died on January 18th(9 in total) at the age of 72 (again 9) !

Romantic in real life: NTR was very handsome and after entering the films, this quality became an Achilles' heel for him. He became involved with many women romantically and his wife, who gave him seven sons and four daughters, swallowed his infidelity with uncommon dignity. This romantic streak in him was like the dark spot in the Moon. In this regard NTR was like Ravana and Shakespeare's Antony who also had a magnetic pull towards women and suffered fatal setbacks in their lives. But in the sunset years of NTR life after his wife's death, this love for women became just a longing for companionship. At this stage yet another woman came into his life, permeating everything in both his personal and political life to a great deal till his tragic and untimely death in the year 1996. In his long and eventful life of 72 years, NTR wore many hats and donned many roles with ease and aplomb. Though he was an actor, producer, director, writer, and politician, NTR the man was behind all these roles. And the saying that,'Character is destiny' perhaps fittingly holds a mirror to him, the man.

In their book, "NTR,a Biography" writers K Chandrahas and K. Lakshminarayana in particular, who worked with NTR for long years and watched his life from close quarters, present an authenticated ringside view of NTR in his many and varied roles. Though there are a couple of biographies about NTR in the market, this biography is unique in the sense that the writers have written for the first time in simple English about all important aspects from his childhood to his last minutes in life.

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