The Protean Man: Remembering NTR on His Birth Anniversary

Actor, director, politician – the many shades of Andhra’s hero – NT Rama Rao. 

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India
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Actor, director, politician – the many shades of Andhra’s hero – NT Rama Rao.
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(This story was originally published on 28 May 2015. It is being reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark NT Rama Rao’s birth anniversary.)

From playing God on screen to being called the “messiah” for people of Andhra Pradesh, Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao, popularly known by his initials NTR, is no less than an enigma.

Other than being among the first politicians to end Congress domination in Andhra Pradesh, his life’s chronicles have been similar to many popular personalities in the country.

He went from tinsel town to the world of politics, much like MG Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa. He became the Andhra CM within nine months of forming his political party, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) much like what happened with Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi.

This actor, producer, director, founder of TDP, two time Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh has also received the erstwhile Rashtrapati Awards for his performances in many films.

What Makes NTR One of India’s Greatest Regional Icons

Born on 28 May 1923 in a farmer’s family in Nimmakuru, a small village in Gudivada taluk of Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh, he went on to become one of the biggest superstars in Telugu films.

He was called Pedala Pennidhi by his fans and worshiped for his stellar performance in mythological roles.

A movie poster of one of NTR’s mythological movies.
A movie poster of one of NTR’s mythological movies.

NTR was a man of great oratory skills which swayed the public emotionally against the Congress. He founded the Telugu Desam Party on 21 March 1982 and steered it on the slogan of “Telugu atma gauravam” (self-pride).

Former Prime Minister  Indira Gandhi with the former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister NT Rama Rao in 1983.
Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi with the former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister NT Rama Rao in 1983.
(Photo Courtesy: Photodivision.gov.in)

Historian Ramachandra Guha recalled in his piece titled Three Comparisons that when Rajiv Gandhi, then Congress General Secretary, scolded the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh (then a Congress stronghold) at the Hyderabad airport, NTR saw it as an insult of the Telugu people themselves.

He immediately put his acting career on hold, and ventured into politics.

Ongole Bull of Moses after winning the Andhra Prdesh State Award in 1988 with Sri NT Rama Rao (Green Turban).
Ongole Bull of Moses after winning the Andhra Prdesh State Award in 1988 with Sri NT Rama Rao (Green Turban).
(Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

NT Rama Rao became the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh in 1983 within nine months of the party’s formation, thus forming the first non-congress government in Andhra Pradesh.

NT Rama Rao addressing a rally after the TDP was elected into power in Andhra Pradesh.
NT Rama Rao addressing a rally after the TDP was elected into power in Andhra Pradesh.
(Photo Courtesy: Pixshark.com

In 1995, when NTR’s second wife Lakshmi Parvati allegedly began influencing political decisions of the actor-politician,  NTR’s son-in-law Nara Chandrababu Naidu, (the incumbent Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh) staged a coup with the support of 200 MLAs and caused a split in the party.  Members of the NTR family stood by Naidu in this regard.

Former President Zail Singh, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and the three Service Chiefs at the funeral of NT Rama Rao.
Former President Zail Singh, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and the three Service Chiefs at the funeral of NT Rama Rao.
(Photo: Photodivision.gov.in)

An agonised NTR died of a heart-attack on 18 January 1996. He is survived by eight sons and four daughters from his first wife Basava Tarakam, who died of cancer in 1985.

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