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The rare breed

The rare breed
Highlights

We are hooked and intrigued, the moment we hear chants of “Asura… Asura…” accompanied with sounds of trumpets and drums. Curiosity increases as NTRJr descends from an SUV and is juxtaposed with 10-headed Ravana statue, to which he salutes. 

We are hooked and intrigued, the moment we hear chants of “Asura… Asura…” accompanied with sounds of trumpets and drums. Curiosity increases as NTRJr descends from an SUV and is juxtaposed with 10-headed Ravana statue, to which he salutes.

The sounds of trumpets and drums culminate to an eerie silence and NTRJr wielding an axe, delivers a one liner, cut to the shot of his laugh, which sends chill down the spine.
The teaser of NTR’s next movie ‘Jai Lava Kusa’, which was released recently struck the chord for all the right reasons. Apart from the intriguing premise, the movie marks - a star playing the role of antagonist; the feat Telugu cinema has not seen in decades.

Unlike Bollywood, where stars often acted in negative roles, in Telugu cinema, heroes playing negative roles is akin to navigating in unchartered waters. Though in the 50s and 60s, stars like legendary NT Rama Rao and TL Kanta Rao played negative roles, they played those roles sporadically.

It is said that senior NTR has always loved playing negatives role and in 1958, when AVM Studio was planning to make ‘Bhu Kailas’ based on legend behind ‘Gokarna’ a pilgrimage centre in Karnataka, the actor had no qualms in playing the role of Ravana.

This movie was the actor’s first tryst with playing the character of Ravana. His portrayal of the mythological villain won critical appreciation and he was enamoured with playing mythological villains ever since. Three years down the line, he donned the director’s hat and made ‘Seetarama Kalyanam’ (1961), in which he again played the role of Ravana. NTR loved the character of Ravana so much that he released the posters of him as Ravana for publicity.

In the same year, TL Kanta Rao, who endeared masses with his roles of folk hero, played a character with negative shades in the movie ‘Rakta Sambandham’. His differences with friend and factory owner NTR, distances NTR from his beloved sister Savitri, who is in love with Kanta Rao, leading to gut wrenching drama.
In 1964, NTR experimented with roles and played antagonist in V Madhusudhana Rao’s ‘Gudi Gantalu’.

His portrayal of rich spoiled brat, who turns paraplegic and harbours intense hatred against his best friend played by Jagaiah, won him accolades. Despite his superstardom, the prospect of playing mythological villain never ceased and NTR turned to the character Duryodhana, which he immortalised on silver screen. He donned the role of the Kaurava king in his directorial ‘Sri Krishna Pandaveeyam’ and carried it with aplomb.

People associated with NTR used to say that the actor viewed Duryodhana as the one who was wronged, rather than a bonafide villain. He upped the ante in playing the character in his 1977 classic ‘Dana Veera Soora Karna’. The dialogues penned by Kondaveeti Venkata Kavi, were a rage back then and continues to enthrall audience even now. The dialogue ‘Emantivi emantivi…’ still gives goosebumps and director SS Rajamouli gave a homage to that dialogue, when he adapted and customised it, for the interval block of the movie ‘Yama Donga’.

NTR played the role of Duryodhana for one last time in ‘Srimadvirta Parvam’ (1979). However, in this movie, he gave more importance to another mythological villain Keechaka. It is believed that the actor wanted to play the role of Keechaka, ever since legendary SV Ranga Rao won laurels for the role far and wide in the movie ‘Narthanasala’ (1963). However, changes to the story like Bhima using a dagger discreetly to kill Keechaka, didn’t go down well with the audience.

Incidentally,the movie also marked end to the actor playing a villain. Though he played characters with negative shades in subsequent films ‘Sardar Paparayudu’ (1980) and ‘Bobbili Puli’ (1982), they were anti-heroes rather than villains. Sadly after 1979, there were hardly any films in which, stars played negative roles.

In 1999, Balakrishna donned the role of terrorist in the film ‘Sultan’, however, the movie was a box office bomb and no other mainstream actor ventured into tricky waters again.

Chiranjeevi, who found his footing in the film industry with negatives roles, hardly played a negative role after he became a mainstream hero. Same was the case with actor Gopichand.

Recently, Sudhir Babu, who rose to fame with ‘SMS’ and ‘Prema Kadha Chitram’, donned the role of antagonist in Bollywood film ‘Baaghi’. Looks like he is enamoured with negative role, as he is main antagonist in the Friday release ‘Samantakamani’. However, NTR Jr venturing into uncharted waters with his next film, it remains to be seen whether the movie marks a change in Tollywood.

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