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Superstar Krishna and NTR: A love-hate relationship with a happy ending

Be it cinema or politics, there were a handful of occasions where Krishna and NTR differed and still mutually respected one another

Superstar Krishna and NTR: A love-hate relationship with a happy ending
NTR and Krishna
  • Srivathsan Nadadhur

Last Updated: 07.10 AM, Nov 16, 2022

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Veteran star Krishna, who breathed his last on Tuesday, revered his seniors and was remembered for his compassion towards his counterparts in the industry. As a newcomer, he had to compete with a handful of heavyweights in the industry - from ANR to NTR and Kantha Rao - to carve his niche. While he didn’t go against the tide and worked on the regular family dramas, folklore films and romances, he gave a new direction to the industry with a flurry of action thrillers, cowboy films and produced multistarrers, where he didn’t mind playing the second fiddle. Across his eventful journey in cinema, Krishna’s bitter-sweet equation with NTR is worth reminiscing about.

NTR was among the first set of people that a 19-year-old Krishna met in one of his early trips to Madras. It was producer Chakrapani who introduced Krishna to NTR initially. While NTR had flattering things to say about Krishna’s persona and looks, he asked the newcomer to be patient to wait for his turn in cinema and work on a few stage dramas in the meantime. A few years down the line, they’d had teamed up for Stree Janma in 1967, the Telugu remake of the Tamil hit Poomalai, and later joined hands for films like Niluvu Dopidi and Vichitra Kutumbam.

However, the real drama began before the making of their hit collaboration Devudu Chesina Manushulu. Krishna had stabilised himself as a bankable crowd-puller by then. NTR was one of the chief guests for the success celebrations of (Krishna’s hit) Pandanti Kapuram. It was at the same event that Krishna expressed his interest to produce a film with NTR and act alongside him. The veteran was game for it and asked to ready a compelling script. Just when Krishna and the team were gearing up to narrate the script to the star, they were caught in the eye of a storm.

The industry was divided in its stance amidst the demand for a new state (for the coastal Andhra, Rayalaseema regions) through the Jai Andhra movement in 1972. Several big-wigs in Telugu cinema were tightlipped owing to their financial commitments in Hyderabad in addition to the other regions of the state. However, Krishna, being a native of the East Godavari district, conveyed his support for the movement, which ruffled many feathers, including NTR. The latter felt Krishna’s stance would pressurise people like him to state their views on the issue and NTR clearly didn’t want to drown himself in muddy waters.

Despite Krishna’s attempts to bury the hatchet, NTR abandoned his plans to work with him and the former almost gave up on the film. However, to his surprise, Krishna received a call from NTR, inviting him to his son Harikrishna’s wedding in Nimmakuru and added, ‘Let’s forget the past and move on. My son is getting married. I am unable to invite many owing to the suspension of railway services. ANR will be around too, please be there.’

After a good wedding feast, Krishna heard the magical words from NTR, ‘We’re doing the film, brother. Let’s meet once we’re back in Madras and begin shooting immediately.’ The monstrous response to Devudu Chesina Manushulu gave renewed enthusiasm to the industry and paved the way for an era of multi-starrers. There was some tension in the air yet again between NTR and Krishna during the release of the latter’s career-defining hit Alluri Seetarama Raju. Alluri.. was a dream project for NTR which didn’t commence despite multiple attempts.

While many thought Alluri.. would rub NTR the wrong way, the star, after a private screening, showed his magnanimity and told Krishna, ‘Great job brother. I don’t think even I would’ve done a better job than this.’ NTR and Krishna’s fans would also particularly remember the contest between Dana Veera Soora Karna and Kurukshetram in 1977, with both stars attempting similar takes on Mahabharata with huge budgets and a star-studded cast. Though Kurukshtram, directed by Kamalakara Kameswara Rao, was a commendable feat and technically brilliant, it was overshadowed by NTR’s bravura performance in Dana Veera..., which emerged triumphant at the box office.

The partly healthy, partly ugly rivalry between NTR and Krishna continued for a few years until they decided to reunite for Vayyari Bhamalu Vagalamari Bhartalu. It was on the sets of this family entertainer where NTR discussed his plans to enter politics with Krishna and asked him to join his party (TDP). Krishna humbly declined the offer, stating he had lots to achieve in films still and conveyed politics didn’t feature in his plans then. Krishna, whose political drama Eenadu coincided with NTR’s campaign ahead of the 1983 elections, voiced his support for the party through the film’s promotions.

After NTR became the CM, his relationship with the industry soured and Krishna was no exception to it. A few notices were sent to Krishna’s Padmalaya Studios and the actor didn’t take this lightly. Soon, Krishna joined the Congress party and this ultimately in a series of political satires through films like Mandaladeesudu, Sahasame Naa Oopiri and Naa Pilupe Prabhanjanam, to name a few. NTR, who responded sportively to the satires in his public responses, however, was believed to be upset. It took many years for these wounds to heal. NTR and Krishna were fortunately on cordial terms before the former’s death in 1995. After all, it was a happy ending.

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