We take you through five memorable performances of NTR in his five-decade-long tryst with Telugu cinema
Last Updated: 07.45 AM, Jan 18, 2022
It has been over 26 years since one of the greatest ever Telugu actors, former AP CM N T Rama Rao breathed his last. He left behind a rich legacy in Telugu cinema, acting in over 300 films in a career spanning nearly five decades. There's not a genre or a role that he's left untouched - white, black, grey, mythology, action, thriller, devotional drama, folklore, family drama, he has done it all. While it's always going to be a daunting prospect to choose only five films that'll represent the monstrous talent he possesses, OTTplay.com makes an earnest, humble attempt to do it.
While Palleturi Pilla was the first major success in NTR's career, it was the folklore film Pathala Bhairavi that cemented his authority in the box office and made him a star. Loosely inspired by the story of Alladin and the Magic Lamp, it was a wholesome package, filled with romance, action, adventure and humour, providing NTR ample scope to be a total charmer. And who can forget its gem of a music score by Ghantasala, from tracks like Entha Ghatu Premayo to Kalavaramaye Madhilo? Beneath the machismo, there's so much innocence in NTR's mischievous portrayal of Thota Ramudu, who wins the heart of the queen Indumathi (Malathi).
If there's one instance that'll tell you why NTR was never bothered about being trapped in an image and was ready to go wild provided he had conviction in the director, Gudi Gantalu is that film. In a classic example of an anti-hero role, NTR plays a wealthy youngster who gets increasingly insecure about an affair between his love interest and his best friend (who were lovers in their past) and wrecks havoc in (his and) their lives. The character graph demands him to conquer his inner demons and NTR is in smashing form as a man consumed by suspicion. It's films like these that make us wonder if Telugu cinema missed a fantastic villain in the star all through his career.
One doesn't need any reminder about the passion that NTR had for mythologicals and his penchant for roles that required him to step out of his comfort zone. Bheeshma, the film named after the iconic character in the Mahabharata, was one such challenge that he relished to bits. As a man who gives up on his ambition to become a king and practised celibacy to stay true to the word he had given to his stepmother, Bheeshma was a patriarch helplessly watching his family fall. He's a victim of circumstances but has to pay a heavy price for the sins he didn't intentionally commit. What else could NTR ask for in a role? In a nearly unrecognisable bearded avatar, watch him play an elderly man with worldly wisdom and maturity barely in his 40s.
The 1970s was a period where there were many fears of NTR's career rusting and biting the dust and the need for him to reinvent was imminent. People may dub his characters in the later phase of the decade as loud, eccentric and over-the-top, but one needs to understand that he had to do it to stay relevant with a new film-watching generation. The results indeed speak for themselves. In 1977, a particularly remarkable year for NTR with hits like Daana Veera Soora Karna and Yama Gola, this mass entertainer called Adavi Ramudu was just the icing on the cake. Playing a forest officer, NTR had an energetic screen presence similar to the enthusiasm of a teenager. This was made by an NTR fan for another set of his fans. What an enjoyable feast it turned out to be!
Srimadvirat Pothuluri Veerabrahmendra Swamy Charitra
Devotional dramas are a significant chapter in the life of NTR as an actor. This film was a home production and he was playing the role of probably the most famous hermit that Telugu people have celebrated and revered over the years, Pothuluri Veerabrahmam. What's more interesting about the film is its release timing, bang in the middle of a political campaign after which NTR would be crowned as the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh. The idealism of the character was a perfect foil for his political career then. The film, which released nearly two years after it was made, was in the news constantly for its censor troubles. The unmistakable earnestness and authority in NTR's portrayal made the part so rooted then and continues to do so even now!