After a tremendously hectic year, Telugu cinema director Krish Jagarlamudi can finally allow his creative faculties to rest. “I had to complete two political films. Three, in fact, as there are two parts to the NTR saga. Now that NTR Mahanayakudu is finally out, I can finally get a good night’s sleep.”
The first part of the NTR saga Kathanayakudu failed at the box-office. Krish is still in a daze over the outcome.
“I have no clue why the first part didn’t do as we expected it to do. Everybody who saw it says they loved it. But not many made the effort to watch it on the big screen. Now that our audience can stream it online, I’ve been receiving countless messages about how much they like NTR Kathanayakudu. I wish more people had made the effort to watch it in theaters. The NTR saga was designed to be a big-screen experience.”
Many feel that the two parts should have been released as one film. But Krish disagrees. “It’s not possible to release more than five hours of edited footage as one film. And we could not cut down on the narrative width, either. This is not an ordinary man’s story. NTR ji, who played Lord Krishna on screen, was actually revered as God by the people of Andhra Pradesh. Making a film on his life in close association with his son has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life. I’ve come away as a better human being. And I hope that our audience feels the same way at the end of the film.”
Krish and his leading man Balakrishna did contemplate putting all the material together in one film. “We thought we would do a five-hour film with two intervals, like Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker. But the idea was shot down. Today’s multiplex audience won’t sit through such lengthy films.”
Krish has no regrets over telling NTR’s story in two parts. “I am confident that our film has a long shelf life. People will keep going back to the two-part biopic to learn more about the only chief minister of the country who could take on Mrs. Indira Gandhi.”
The second part (NTR Mahanayakudu) has opened with encouraging box office records. Rationalising the disparity in response to the two parts, Krish says, “The political atmosphere was heavily weighed against our film when the first part came out. However, the second part comes with no extra baggage. People are watching it for what it is — an honest unpretentious tribute to the iconic N. T. Rama Rao.”
There have been reports about Balakrishna being unhappy with the end-product. Krish says this is wishful thinking on the part of those who can’t bear to see a collaboration so momentous coming to happy fruition.
“There are people who wanted us to fail and have a fall-out. Balakrishna sir and I were in pursuit of a story that would do justice to the legend. Our effort to tell the NTR story was blessed by God and the great man himself. And with Balakrishna sir’s determination to make it happen, nothing could stop us.”...