Cast: Nandamuri Balakrishna, Vidya Balan, Sumanth, Kalyan Ram, Rana Daggubati, Daggubati Raja, Vennela Kishore and others
Director: Krish Jagarlamudi
After the successful biopic Mahanati made on legendary actress Savitri, comes another biopic and it is about legendary actor NTR who strode the stage as well as politics like a colossus. Made in two parts by Krish, the first part Kathanayakudu, released on Wednesday, with Balakrishna playing NTR, his real life father. Vidya Balan has made her debut in Telugu as NTR’s wife Basavatharakam.
The film starts with NTR’s wife Basavatharakam in hospital undergoing treatment for cancer. She asks her children to get NTR’s album — as the pages unfold, so does the film. It begins in 1947, Rama Rao (Balakrishna) gets a job in the sub-registrar office but later resigns because he is against corruption. He then decides to pursue acting after filmmaker L.V. Prasad (Jisshu Sengupta) invites him to Madras, where he shares a room with three others trying their luck in films.
L.V. Prasad offers Rama Rao a small role in his film Mana Desam. After a struggle, NTR gets his first break with Pathala Bhairavi and a star is born who becomes popular as NTR. Playing mythological characters takes him closer to the people. Side by side, there are glimpses of his other calling when he offers his services when natural calamities take place. From that to his deciding to join politics when Indira Gandhi declares emergency is but a short leap. After a brief discussion with family, friends, NTR takes the plunge leading to the founding of the Telugu Desam Party and the first part ends here.
Full credit to Krish for an absorbing narration, blending both NTR’s film and family life. There are a few scenes like when NTR appears as Lord Krishna for the first time, which gives you goosebumps. Likewise when NTR’s elder son Rama Krishna passes away at a young age.
Though controversy surrounded the actor, Krish only focuses on the rise of NTR as a superstar. He also concentrates on the NTR and Basavatharakam dynamic. Interspersed is footage from some of his old films that takes the story forward seamlessly.
The reasons that trigger NTR to enter politics like the emergency, the pejorative label “madrassis” for all South Indians in Delhi, the frequent changing of AP chief ministers by the Congress have been shown effectively.
When it comes to performance, this is definitely Balakrishna’s best. Unlike his many other films where he is loud, here he is subtle and nuanced. Incidentally, this is the first time that a son has played his father in a biopic.
Vidya Balan is a big asset to the film. Sumanth as ANR is perfect. The other big role is played by Daggubati Raja who excels as NTR’s brother. Kalyan Ram as Hari Krishna is impressive. Rana Daggubati as CBN has a very small part. Jisshu plays a lively L.V. Prasad. Many other actors and actresses play different roles.
M.M. Keeravani’s music sets the mood. Cinematographer V.S. Jnana Sekhar and Krish worked earlier especially for period films. So Jnana Shekhar is very adept with the camera here. Saashi Suresh’s has re-created the sets and ambience of older times perfectly. Burra Sai Madhav dialogues are very good, but some exaggerated like when NTR christens Balakrishna.
On the whole, NTR: Kathanayakudu is a good tribute to NTR by director Krish and Balakrishna and definitely a must watch.