NTR : A GREEK TRAGEDY?
Suppose the statue of NT Rama Rao, Yuga Purushudu, which was unveiled at the A Parliament House by Speaker Meira Kumar on May 7 at a function attended...
Suppose the statue of NT Rama Rao, Yuga Purushudu, which was unveiled at the A Parliament House by Speaker Meira Kumar on May 7 at a function attended by a galaxy of celebrities, were gifted with the power of thinking and talking to himself, what would be his thoughts on seeing those who came to honour him? As Isaiah said in Bible, NTR must have thought, "These people honour me with the lips, but their heart is far from me�." The family was afraid that he would bequeath the political legacy and properties to Laxmi, as NTR used to fondly address her in public meetings, whom it considered as a wicked woman, an usurper who was manipulating NTR for her own selfish ends. K Ramachandra Murthy There are talking and thinking statues. The talking statues of Rome are an outlet for anonymous political perceptions. The first talking statue was that of Pasquino representing the mythical character of King of Sparta, husband of Helen of Troy, and an important character in Iliad. There are also animated statues and those which talk among themselves in a New York art gallery. Suppose the statue of NT Rama Rao, Yuga Purushudu, which was unveiled at the Parliament House by Speaker Meira Kumar on May 7 at a function attended by a galaxy of celebrities, were gifted with the power of thinking and talking with himself, what would be his thoughts on seeing those who came to honour him? He would have chuckled and said to himself in his famous booming baritone, "Ayyaaree" in his Duryodhana diction. NTR, from the beginning of his role in "Naa Desam" in reel life till the end of his role in "Telugu Desam Party" in real life, had seen the best of his times and also the worst machinations, hollowness, treachery and all ruinous disorders that followed to his grave. Ambitious, handsome and intelligent, NTR was a self-made man. He abandoned the status of film god to enter politics at the turn of 60 and was elected chief minister thrice. He lived a life of Lord Rama and Lord Krishna rolled into one. He had his pleasures and joys of life while maintaining discipline to accomplish great heights in his chosen field, be it films or politics. But he was obsessed with keeping a promise, never to go back on a word, a trait associated with Rama. He was curt and straight, not given to devious ways of expression or thought. He did not deceive anyone. On the other hand, he was deceived by the persons he trusted. The Bobbili Puli was tamed and caged and sent into wilderness by his own family. The death of his loving wife, Basava Tarakam, left him a loner. He lost the godly luster and his party was thrashed in 1989 elections. A gregarious person who liked to be surrounded by the kith and kin was suddenly left all alone with his children busy with their lives unable to spare time for him. It was at this critical juncture Laxmi Parvati, entered his life in the name of writing a biography. She moved closer and started attending to the needs of his body, mind and heart, making him laugh again. Had he wanted, he could have continued a secret relationship with her as many politicians and others shamelessly do. But he thought he needed her for company and comfort and the right royal way was to marry her. That gutsy decision had changed the course of politics in the State and his own life. The family was afraid that he would bequeath the political legacy and properties to Laxmi, as NTR used to fondly address her in public meetings, whom it considered as a wicked woman, an usurper who was manipulating NTR for her own selfish ends. Not only did the family reject her as NTR's second wife, the leaders of the community to which NTR belonged also joined hands to save the TDP, political power, from the evil designs of the new person in the life of the legend. The rest, as they say, is history. NTR was born in a poor farming family. He scaled the peaks in a hard way. He loved the poor and craved to do something to improve their lives. The Rs 2 a kilo rice scheme and many other welfare schemes speak for themselves. His faith in gender equality was manifested in his argument in favour of amending the Hindu Succession Act which gives equal property rights to women and men. Unconventional, sometimes radical, uncompromising and a very strong politician, NTR had no patience with intrigues or tactics. Whether it was going for dissolution of the Assembly or obtaining the resignations of all the ministers in his Cabinet or marrying his biographer and announcing it at a public meeting in the face of stiff opposition from family members, he went by his gut feeling. He was bold and did what he thought was right. NTR in the statue would have loved to be among the great persons who made India proud. The sight of the statue of Chandra Gupta Maurya must have warmed the cockles of his heart since he liked the character which he portrayed on the screen. It is excellent to be in the company of Andhra Kesari Prakasam Pantulu and elder brother NG Ranga. Alluri Seetarama Raju, whom NTR loved most and whose role he happily donned in films whenever there was an occasion, is eagerly awaited. He is not very sure about PV Narasimha Rao joining them since political dispensation at the State level has no concern for the man with qualities of Chanakya and Brihaspathi, as admirers of his intellect describe, and the leaders at the Centre have only contempt for him. There is no political mileage in perpetuating his memory for reasons best left unsaid. The Thespian of Telugu cinema who acted in 292 films was thrilled to see the likes of Karamchand Gandhi, Ambedkar, Sardar Patel, Nehru, Indira Gandhi and other illustrious leaders in the crowd of statues. He blessed Mayacharya, who sculptured his 9 feet 3 inches bronze statue weighing 900 Kgs, while he was felicitated by Vice-President Ansari. But he had mixed feelings when he saw Chinnamma, as his daughter Daggubati Purandeswari is affectionately called by kin, who hosted the event and donated the statue. He loved her as he was a slave of his children and remembered that Chinnamma was admitted in the convent in Chennai where Jayalalithaa studied. The English language skills she picked up there have been of great help to her in impressing the Gandhis and Manmohan Singh while going places in politics. But he could not forget the fact that Chinnamma had sent her husband to Viceroy Hotel, where a camp was organized by NTR's rivals who were hatching conspiracy to throw him out of power. He recollected with bitterness that her dream of seeing the hubby become a deputy chief minister and her brother Hari take over as party chief did not come true although she made it to the Union Cabinet in her own way. NTR now has no anger or anguish. Death solves all the problems. Like King Lear, he says: "You must bear with me. Pray you now, forget and forgive: I am old and foolish and gone". On seeing Nara Chandrababu Naidu, the son-in-law who did him in, NTR was reminded of his own whirlwind tour of Andhra Pradesh in his Chaitanya Ratham. Naidu came to the function after completing a walkathon of more than 2000 kms in 200 days, a record of sorts. NTR himself had covered 35,000 kms in 90 days in the last quarter 1982. It was not on foot but by bus. Naidu's foresight in getting Lokesh married to Balakrishna's daughter Brahmani is giving rich dividends. Political affiliations through marriage have been there for ages. Balaiah, who looked his usual flamboyant self, is the only person in the whole family, besides, of course Bhuvaneswari, who stood like a rock with Naidu. NTR has a secret admiration for Naidu's cerebral qualities. Bhuvaneswari and son Lokesh were not present. Harikrishna, who used to drive "Chaitanya Ratham", seemed forlorn and lost in thought. Is he thinking of his own role in the coup against his father or the role of Naidu and Balaiah in weaving rings around his son, NTR Jr, to immobilize and keep him away from taking a bite at the cherry? The senior was, however, happy to see the junior who resembled him the most among all the members of his large, extended family. He is talented too. Junior's mother also was not accepted by the family as the second wife of Harikrishna. NTR, junior, was able to give a place of honour to his mother because of his success at the box office. Laxmi Parvati's son, Koteswara Rao, is not that charismatic or gifted or accomplished. He does not share NTR's genes even remotely. "Would this boy (NTR Junior) take over the party I founded and lost at a future date", wondered the senior. Mohan Babu, villain turned hero, was spotted by NTR. It was this booming Babu, known for his extraordinary ability of dialogue delivery, who brought Rajinikant, the famous Tamil superhero, to Viceroy hotel in support of Naidu during those fateful days in August of 1995, just months after NTR stormed back into power. The actor who publicly adored NTR and revered Dasari Narayana Rao, the Darsaka Ratna, was to become a part of the coup because he too wanted to save the party from the "gullible" chieftain. The roving eyes of NTR stopped on Jayaprada who looks beautiful even today. She was chatting with Rekha, the heartthrob of yesteryear. He was sorry for Rekha that the Big B does not have a big heart and the guts that he had. NTR recollected what all Jayaprada reportedly did to help Naidu dethrone him and then, as poetic justice would have it, fell out with Naidu to go all the way to UP to contest against the Rani of Rampur with the help of the well-known wheeler-dealer of Indian politics, Amar Singh. That she vanquished the local queen twice was a testimony to Jayaprada's grit and gumption. He was told by a little bird that his heroine in 'Yamagola' is going back to her native Rajahmundry to contest on whichever ticket that would be available. Yarlagadda Laxmi Prasad, who was a mentor of Hari and managed to go to Rajya Sabha where he served a term, was seen moving among the elite many of whom are known to NTR. It struck NTR that this man from Gudivada had recently got a statue of his guru Kavi Samrat Viswanatha Satyanarayana unveiled along with that of Jashua and Dr C Narayana Reddy at Vizag beach. He fondly recollected that it was Viswanatha, the then head of the Telugu department at SRR&CVR college, Vijayawada, where he was a student of first year Intermediate in 1940, who gave him the first break in acting by forcing him to don a role of the heroine in the play "Rachamalluni Dautyam" penned by the poet-writer himself. In the anniversary celebration at the end of the second year, the young NTR played the role of Salim in Anarkali. He got first prize on both occasions. The seeds for his film career were sown then. The founder of the TDP also thought of the recent event at Vijayawada where the Hindi scholar got the bust of the doyen of Telugu journalism Narla Venkateswara Rao, a well-wisher who advised him to abolish the academies, unveiled by a journalist turned proprietor of a newspaper who was active in the conspiracy. Last but not the least, Laxmi looked extremely happy that she could get invited and was able to be present at the ceremony in the company of the Speaker and the Prime Minister. He could imagine that the fertile brain of his second wife and her undue interference in political affairs was largely responsible for his fall. Her mission ever since she lost her husband has been to demolish Naidu. Like Karna, the character he had immortalised on the celluloid, he has more than six factors to blame for his political death. As Isaiah said in Bible, so NTR must have thought, "These people honour me with the lips, but their heart is far from me�." "Statues to great men are made of the stones thrown at them in their lifetime", observed Jean Cocteau, noted French poet, writer and philosopher. How true, especially in case of NTR! But those who sinned against the legend may be forgotten by history but the great heart would be alive forever like a loadstar showing the path for generations of political and social workers who strive for the welfare of the people. Amen!
24 Jan 2020 7:07 AM GMT