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NTR–the personification of Lord Krishna for Telugu people

NTR–the personification of Lord Krishna for Telugu people
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Ampashayya Naveen: NTR–the Personification of Lord Krishna for Telugu People, the legendary film actor and a politician who brought about...

I was pleasantly surprised when I was told by Hari Krishna, the convener of NTR trust that I was selected for this year’s NTR award. This award was presented to me on May 28 on the occasion of NTR’s birthday at Gandipet in Hyderabad. The other celebrities who were selected for conferment of this award are Pullela Gopichand, the veteran Shuttle Badminton player, Rajendra Prasad, eminent cine actor and Chandra Bose, the lyricist, Thurinagari, for folk poetry, Venkata Krishna, journalist, Manthena, for classical poetry. I was simply thrilled when I heard this news. NT Rama Rao, the legendary film actor and a politician who brought about revolutionary changes in the administration of Andhra Pradesh had been my idol and an icon since my childhood. During my high school days, some of my friends and classmates were divided into two groups - one group being the ardent fans of NTR and the other being the zealous fans of ANR. We used to have noisy war of words - one group praising NTR and the other group praising ANR. Sometimes, these verbal words turned to be very violent and we used to come to blows. I always took the side of NTR, though in my heart of hearts liked ANR too.

NTR, during his early days in films was a great idealist. Being a very handsome guy, he dared to play a very deglamorised role in a film like” Thodu Dongalu” and “Pitchi Pullaiah”. Both these films particularly, “Thodu Dongalu” was a socially relevant film as it had depicted how two businessmen cheat the common people to earn money. But, their conscience always pricks them and they undergo a lengthy introspection and try to wash off their sins by repentance. Unfortunately, both these films failed at the box office and NTR decided not to produce such realistic films and decided to go for a folk lore. The result was ‘Jaya Simha’, a neat folklore which became box office blockbuster.

During 1950’s, in films like Malleswari, Palleturu, Shahukar, Pelli Chesi Choodu, Missamma, NTR had given a very restrained and natural performance. He had not yet developed a mannerism, his dialogue delivery used to be very natural and he never resorted to overacting. His performance in Malleswari, which was directed by eminent director like B.N Reddy, was highly restrained and he gave a memorable performance in this film along with Bhanumathi. In other films of those days Palleturu, Shavukar, Pelli Chesi Choodu, Missamma, NTR looked extremely handsome and natural. But, 1957 onwards, there seemed to be a change in his acting style. In 1957, he played the role of Sri Krishna in a mythological film Maya Bazar. He looked like real Sri Krishna and lakhs of devotees of Lord Krishna identified NTR as their Krishna. They felt as if they were seeing real Sri Krishna in flesh and blood. His ‘Sri Krishna’ was so successful that he played this role in 17 other films. “Maya Bazar” directed by veteran director K V Reddy, had become such a box office hit that it radically changed the cine image of NTR. He was asked to play the roles of Sri Krishna and Sri Rama though his earlier social films were very successful. Telugu spectators loved to see him only in the roles of Sri Krishna and Sri Rama. As NTR shifted to playing these roles and people started believing that he is real Krishna and real Rama. When that was the situation, NTR surprised his fans by playing the negative roles like Ravana, Duryodana and Karna. In “Seetha Rama Kalyanam”, he offered the role of Rama to Haranath and had decided to play the role of Ravana. He played the role of Ravana to the hilt and he was the real hero in “Seetha Rama Kalyanam” overpowering Sri Rama’s role. We were greatly surprised when he once again played the negative role of Duryodana in a film like “Sri Krishna Pandaveeyam”. He played the roles of both Sri Krishna and Duryodana. He had a penchant for playing even 5 roles in a film. Acting in number of mythological films, NTR’s dialogue delivery in social films had undergone a sea change. His dialogue delivery had become very loud and artificial and he resorted to overacting. His acting was no longer restrained and natural. In real life too he started speaking dramatically. He was living like a cine hero in real life. During 1980’s and 90’s in films like Adavi Ramudu, Vetagadu, Bobbili Puli etc, he developed some fixed mannerisms and long dialogue delivery. At one stage, everybody in film circles thought NTR had lost his charisma and he may never regain his past glory. But some of the remakes of Hindi films in which Amitabh Bachan was the hero, had given a new life to NTR. Block buster Hindi films like Zanjeer, Deewar and Don were remade in Telugu with NTR doing the role of Amitabh Bachan and those remakes were proved to be hits in Telugu too.

Suddenly in 1982, NTR had decided to enter Politics. He founded Telugu Desam Party and within no time, this party caught the imagination of Telugu people. NTR’s clarion call to restore the Telugu pride and Telugu’s self-respect had touched a chord in every Telugu man. He had always proclaimed that Telugu’s are one nation, one culture and one literature. When separate Telangana movement was at its peak during 1969, NTR produced a film “Thalla Pellama” in which he picturised a song written by C Narayana Reddy which had the message of oneness of Telugu people. Because of this song, the film was not allowed to exhibit in Telangana for few days during the height of Telangana agitation.

In 1983, when he defeated the mighty Congress party and formed first non-Congress government in Andhra Pradesh, It was considered to be a revolution. He genuinely tried to bring some radical changes in administration. He tried his best to put an end to corruption. He had started number of welfare programmes like 1 rupee kilo rice to poor people.

Such welfare programmes had gone a long way in eradicating poverty and in improving the standard of living of the people. Another bold step that he had taken was dissolution of age old village heads like police Patels and Patwaaries who became symbols of authoritarian rule in the villages and exploiting the poor people’s labour. Thus NTR was greatly successful both as a film hero and Chief Minister. Telugu people can never forget him and he is the personification of Sri Krishna of all the Telugu people.

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