Remembering NTR, actor, director and producer (Part - I)

Sreenivas Paruchuri (
Sat, 18 Jan 1997 12:00:24 +0100 (MET)

January 18 marks the first anniversary of NTR's death. In memory of one of 
the most famous sons of Telugu movies, we fondly recount some of the 
highlights and anecodtes about NTR's early days and his film career.

Regards.       --- Sreenivas Paruchuri, V. Chowdary Jampala


Nandamuri Taraka Ramarao, popularly known as N.T.R, was born on 28th May 
in "nimmakooru", Krishna Dt. His mother initially wanted to name him after 
god "kRshNa", but at his uncle's spontaneous comment "taaraka raamuDu", 
he became Taraka Ramarao. Later he was adopted by his uncle raamayya.

Though he was born into an agricultural family, his family put value on 
education and his father took him all the way to the school in the 
neighbouring village everyday, carrying him on his shoulders. (Many 
sources told us that he respected educated people throughout his life and 
it was a considerable factor in the selection of his later candidates for 
the assembly polls - Yes, yes there were some serious exceptions! - and 
in his selection of people for other posts. One of the things that he
would often say about his controversial second wife during the conflicts 
in the year before his death was that 'aaviDa M. Phil cESaaru. baagaa 
caduvukunnaaru', as if the degree itself validated her personal worth).

He was a good student performing well in school and college (he flunked 
his intermediate exams shortly after his marriage, but went on to earn 
a BA in economics from AC College, Guntur). Have you ever seen his 
hand-writing? Try to get hold of the Telugu film magazine _vijayachitra_'s 
inagural edition or their 20th anniversary special! It is really beautiful. 
Apparently, he was a very good artist, and even won a prize in painting 
competitions at state level before his entry into films. He presented 
a portrait of Subhas Bose to him when Bose visited Vijayawada.  Reportedly 
it was him that drew the original sketches for his election symbols - 
cycle and later lion. 

He had his schooling at Municipal High school, Vijayawada and 
S.R.R. College, VZA before joining A.C. College, GNT. One often quoted 
story is from his intermediate days at S.R.R. College, where viSwanaatha 
satyanaaraayaNa was the head of the Telugu dept. He was asked to play 
a female role by Viswanatha, and with great reluctance he played that role,
but refused  to shave off his moustache, earning the nickname  
"meesaala naagamma". At AC College, he continued his activities in the 
Dramatic Club, where he was associated with jaggayya, mukkaamala and 
KVS Sarma.

He was still a 'raitu biDDa' at his heart. He was known in his native 
village for his ability to tame the wayward bulls, and for his 
banDlapandElu. During his college days, his family went through a bad 
patch (his family lost all their wealth through a series of bad deals and 
loans) and young Ramarao tried several things to make a living. He supplied
milk to the hotels and denizens of Viajyawada, and ran a 'kiraaNaa koTTu' 
and a press among other things. (Also, in his early days in Madras, there 
is an often told story about how the penniless Ramarao went without a meal 
for three days and did not let even his roommates know. One of the roommates 
was yOgaanand who would go on to direct many films, including NTR's own. 
Somebody that was close to him told us that these experiences shaped his 
later behavior. He was very much against taking loans, and when he heard of 
people going without food, he would feel that pain. People say that this was 
partly behind that two rupees a kg rice scheme.). 

He was recommended to L.V. Prasad in Vijayawada where he used to act in 
his own National Art Theatre productions, formed in his early college 
days (and on same lable: NAT he produced some of his early gems: jayasiMha,
paanDuranga maahaatmyam, seetaaraama kalyaaNam.) in 1947.

His first film was "manadESam" (released in 1949, after great production 
delays; originally started way back in 47/48) and played the  role of 
a police inspector. Another often quoted incident from this film: In his 
very first scene, that of a "lathi"-charge, he swung into action, 
brandishing his "laaThi" and chasing the people, like a bull in a china 
shop. When LV Prasad angrily said that it was cinema and he was only 
supposed to pretend and act, the puzzled NTR replied that "what is acting?
Trying to be realistic?" and smiled helplessly.

He signed his first role as a "hero" with B.A. Subbarao and was offered 
Rs. 1116. He went off to Vijayawada and resigned the job as sub-registrar 
at mangaLagiri, at which he worked for only 3 weeks. Subbarao, who was an 
addict of 'Western' movies always liked the idea of a _he-man_ playing the 
lead role in his films as those days there was a certain femininity with 
the men playing hero's roles. Later he recalled that "As he was approaching 
me zooming and zooming in, I told my assistant taapi chaaNakya that this 
is the man who shall be my hero!". And the film was "palleToori pilla", 
a big hit, the first major film for the music director Adinarayanarao,
a first joint starrer of ANR and NTR, who went on to act in 12-13 films 
together, many of them regarded as classics in Telugu film history.

			To be contd.