NTR Kathanayakudu is a biographical drama film starring Nandamuri Balakrishna and Vidhya Balan in lead roles. The film is based on the life of one of the most popular Telugu actors of yesteryear, Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao. Several prominent actors like Kaikala Satyanarayana, Sumanth Akkineni, Rana Daggubati, Rakul Preet Singh, Nandamuri Kalyan Ram, Nithya Menen, Prakash Raj, Hansika Motwani, Praneetha Subhash, VK Naresh, Shreya Saran etc. appeared in the film. Apart from them, several technicians including the writer Sai Madhav Burra and director Krish Jagarlamudi acted in the film. Sai Korrapati, Vishnu Induri and Nandamuri Balakrishna produced the film together under Vaaraahi Chalana Chitram, Vibri Media and NBK films banners. Krish Jagarlamudi directed the film. NTR Kathanayakudu released worldwide on 09th Jan, 2019.
The film starts in a hospital with dying Tarakam (Vidhya Balan) seeing the photos of her husband Rama Rao (Balakrishna) in an album. The entire film is told in a long flashback episode. Rama Rao works as a registrar but resigns his job to pursue a career in films. Although he initially receives offers, the films don’t materialize and he decides to give up on acting and return to his home town. The rest of the story is about how he became one of the greatest actors of Telugu cinema through passion and hard work and the incidents that ignited the political aspirations in him.
First of all, unlike several other eminent personalities, NTR’s life is in pubic domain and many of the audience knew everything that can be showcased in a film. However, Krish managed to take cinematic liberties wherever possible to sum up several incidents into a film. The first half is an exciting story but is spoiled with a weak narration. The rise of a common man into a matinee idol could be remarkable with perfect execution. But the intent behind the film is to establish NTR as a God-like personality, so they try to back every action of NTR with a good intention. This has literally killed any scope of character development and the film looks like a Youtube playlist with one sequence after the other without any empathy for the characters. The only character audience empathise with is that of Tarakam, and Vidhya Balan breathed life into it. The role has limited dialogues and a lot has to be conveyed through expressions and she excelled in it. NTR standing in a pose for a role for over 8 hrs without even blinking the eyes is too unrealistic. The director could have come up with something better.
The hero elevation scenes are not properly used. The selection of NTR for lead role in Pathala Bhairavi is a life changing moment for him but the entire sequence is narrated through KV Reddy’s point of view. Particularly, the tennis court scene gives goose bumps on paper for anyone who has read about the film career of NTR. But such scenes are skipped pretty quickly for showcasing his political aspirations. However, the portrayal of NTR as Krishna in Mayabazaar is the best scene in the film. Initially, NTR was rejected by the audience for his portrayal of Krishna in the film ‘Sontha Ooru’. KV Reddy is the mastermind behind convincing the audience to accept him. For example, they distributed calendars with NTR as Krishna before the release of Mayabazaar. They showed in the film as if only the good looks of NTR managed to convince the audience. Moreover, NTR is a constant learner who did a lot of hard work for his roles and learned many things to portray his roles to perfection. But the makers have totally ignored such things.
The emotional interval sequence didn’t set any expectations for the second half. NTR’s eldest son Ramakrishna passed away in 1962. NTR didn’t just accept every film to engage himself in acting to focus his mind on work. In fact, he learned Kuchipudi dance for his 1963 film Nartanasala and took guidance of KV Reddy for his getup of body language of Brihannala role. NTR also had differences with ANR and Krishna but the film portrays them as rumours. ANR is popular for his dynamic nature and honest speeches but he is restricted to a subordinate role. He just nods and follows NTR throughout the film. Sri Devi has a close association with NTR since her childhood but her role is limited to being a co-star. The political scenario in the country during the emergency is well portrayed. The climax establishes a good premise for the second part of the biopic, NTR-Mahanayakudu.
Nanadamuri Balakrishna is good as NTR but his acting is no match for that of NTR. For example, the original voice of NTR was used in some scenes and the Bobbili Puli court episode is not even close to the terrific performance of NTR. However, he impresses with his looks and body language. This is also one of the best performances of Balakrishna. Vidhya Balan just lived in the role as Basava Tarakam. She brought in a lot of subtlety required for the role. Sumanth is convincing as ANR but is no match for the portrayal of Naga Chaitanya in Mahanati. Kalyan Ram very well suited as Hari Krishna. Rana is impressive and his facial expressions remind us of Chandrababu Naidu. His performance in the second part is something to watch out for. Nithya Menen is good as Savitri. There are countless other prominent actors in blink and miss scenes.
The script is flawed and it stresses heavily on the political aspirations of NTR instead of showing his personality. Even after watching around 3 hrs movie, we never get to understand the true nature of NTR. The production values are average and many scenes are shot within restricted areas to finish quickly. However, the art design is excellent and the feel of time period is brought in many scenes. The makeup and costumes are perfect. The cinematography is superb and follows the tone of the film. The music and background score are assets to the film. The editing is good except for an unnecessary opening scene. But the scene could connect to second part, so we can’t judge it as of now. The direction is average and Krish failed as both writer and director. The entire film funnels down to the climax, making things clear that the biopic is made for TDP but not for NTR. Except for several remixed scenes and songs, he never bothered about the passion of NTR for cinema and the hard work behind the roles he portrayed. Krish could’ve done a better job with his talent and experience.
NTR Kathanayakudu is a film shot hurriedly focusing primarily on the political life of NTR. The film deals with several aspects of his life but doesn’t do justice to any of it. Although not required, they have done remix of a lot of scenes and songs. The film talks a little about his personal life and the second half is mostly about his political career. However, NTR Kathanayakudu is a decent watch for those who want to learn about the life of NTR.