NTR Kathanayakudu - Movie Review

Wednesday, January 9, 2019 - 13:00
NTR Kathanayakudu (2018)
Cast & Crew: 

Film: NTR Kathanayakudu
Cast: Nandamuri Balakrishna, Vidya Balan, Nandamuri Kalyanram, Rana Daggubati, Sumanth, Prakash Raj, Naresh VK, Murali Sharma, Kaikala Satyanarayana, Rakul Preet Singh, Nithya Menen, Hansika, Payal Rajput, Shriya, Shalini Pandey, Manjima Mohan, Jishu Senugupta, Chandra Siddhartha, Avasarala, Vennela Kishore, Ramajogaiah Sastry, Malvika Nair, Brahmanandam and others
Story-assistance: Dr.L Sreenath
Dialogues: Sai Madhav Burra
Music: M M Keeravani
Cinematography: Jnana Sekhar V S
Editing: Ramakrishna Annam, Santosh Kiran
Art: Saahi Suresh
Costumes: Aishwarya Rajeev
Stunts: Jashuva
Co-Producers: Vishnu Induri, Sai Korrapati
Producer: Nandamuri Balakrishna
Written and direction: Krish
Release date: Jan 09, 2019
CBFC Rating: U
Runtime: 171 min

Real life...
Before discussing about NTR biopic in detail, let me rewind the real life biography of legendary actor NT Rama Rao in brief. 
Born in an ordinary rythu (farmer) family in Nimmakuru village in Andhra Pradesh in year 1923, Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao entered the film industry with a small role in LV Prasad directed 'Mana Desam' in 1949 after being bored of doing government job as his heart was in acting. Even before he entered films, he was married to Basavatarakam. KV Reddy's 'Paatala Bhairavi' (1951) was his first major blockbuster as lead star. He didn't have to look back again and went on to rule the Telugu movie industry for decades. His mythological role of Lord Krishna in 'Maya Bazaar' brought him closer to the audiences and he later continued playing such characters in many blockbusters. He soon became director, producer and also a studio owner. His acting career hardly saw any upheavals. 
In 1982, he had launched Telugu Desam Party and came to power within 9 months on the plank of Telugu Atmagouravam. His popularity further rose as politician. His political story is another matter. 
Now to the biopic...
Director Krish's biopic on NTR primarily delves on the legendary actor’s film career and the incidents that drove to him to launch Telugu Desam party. The story begins in 1947 and ends in 1982 with Basavatarakam (Vidya Balan) who was being treated at Adayar Hospital in Madras in 1984 recollecting her husband’s memories looking at an old pic of NTR.
The first part of NTR Biopic ends when NT Rama Rao announces his decision of launching Telugu Desam party. So, this is clearly, about NTR the actor aka Kathanayakudu. The political life’s story will only be seen in the second part that is expected to hit the screens next month.
This first part portrays NTR the actor in his various avatars. After getting the first acting job in ‘Mana Desam’, NTR had to struggle to get next film as lead hero. That is showed here. How he develops bond with ANR, who is much senior actor and already established star, is also shown. His contract with Vijay productions, how KV Reddy gave him Lord Krishna’s role much against wishes of the producers, how he became a star with ‘Pathala Bhairavi’ and his various other hits are narrated neatly. However, these sequences are narrated in tedious and slow manner. There is lot of indulgence here. While the first half entirely focuses on his career till the 1960’s, the second half moves on the 70’s career and incidents that made him to plunge into politics. 

At every stage, everyone praises NTR, his great virtues like his time-planning, hard work, daring attitude and dedication are extolled. He is constantly treated as god. Every anecdote about him is used as scenes (example: NTR - Savitri Gundamma Katha making sequence and the filming of 10-headed Ravana for one of his mythology movies for 10-hours at a stretch). The film finally turns out to be a hagiography rather than a portrayal of his life. Lot of factual errors and sugar-coated lies can also be seen.

One good sequence in the film is his wife and daughters objecting NTR when he romances heroines like Sridevi and Jaya Prada who are younger than his daughters.
As an actor, Nandamuri Balakrishna has earned distinct credit of essaying his own father’s role. In a chequered career of three hundred movies, his father NTR had played hundreds of different roles, had appeared in varied getups and Balakrishna has himself transformed into some of these characters. He has also appeared from NTR in his 20’s to 60’s. Balakrishna has pulled off NTR’s second phase of acting career roles but he looks odd in the first half as his age doesn’t suit. Although some of NTR’s early roles have not suited well to Balakrishna’s age, he has managed to overcome them with his overall persona and performance.  
The meta moment in the film is naming ceremony of Balakrishna. In the role of NTR, Balakrishna names Balakrishna to the baby boy, one of NTR’s younger sons and announces that he would be his varasadu in acting. But the dialogues mouthed at this naming ceremony are in atrociously poor taste.

Since the story of NTR’s life is narrated with Basavatarkam’s recollecting NTR, this film has equal importance to her. In the role of Basavatarkam of NTR’s wife, Vidya Balan impresses. She has added gravitas to the proceedings. After Vidya Balan, it is Daggubati Raja as NT Trivikrama Rao, NTR’s brother who steals the show.
As Akkineni Nageshwara Rao, NTR’s friend and contemporary actor, Sumanth steals the show as well. Sumanth has quite resemblance to ANR. Kalyan Ram as Nandamuri Harikrishna impresses in a brief and important role. Rana is okay.
In NT Rama Rao’s life, many persons (actors, directors, friends and other people) had played important role but the movie touches upon selected episodes from his movie. Hence we get to see only few filmmakers who shaped his career like K V Reddy (played by Krish), H M Reddy (the veteran actor Kaikala Satyanarayana), L V Prasad (Bengali actor Jishu Sengupta), BA Subbarao (VK Naresh), Aluri Chakrapani (Murali Sharma), Nagi Reddy (Prakash Raj), K Raghavendra Rao (Prakash), Dasari Narayana Rao (Chandra Siddharth).
Savitri (Nithya Menen gets her look and act perfect), Krishna Kumari (Pranitha), Sridevi (Rakul Preet Singh as Sridevi), Jaya Prada (Hansika), Prabha (Shriya) also appear in various bit songs. NTR’s old numbers like “Lechindi Mahila Lokam” (Balakrishna – Nithya Menen), “Chitram Bhale Vichitram” (Balakrishna – Shriya), “Chilakakottudu Kodite” (NBK-Hansika), “Akuchatu Pinde Tadise” (NBK- Rakul) are used incidental soundtracks in the film.
Period dramas and biopics work only when the production design (art work), costumes and cinematography recreate the bygone era and bring the period on to the screen. Saahi Suresh has done excellent job with his artwork. Costumes are also perfect. Cinematography is apt. But there is nothing extraordinary either. All the technicians have done competent job. That’s it. M M Keeravani’s background score is okay.
The film has dialogues by Sai Madhav Burra which have worked in some sequences but the problem with this writer is he excessively uses prophetic lines that irk after a point.
Editing is atrociously lousy, the film drags on and on. With nearly 3-hour runtime, it is quite flabby.
Director Krish’s work is flat. He has used over dramatic elements, and has written plain screenplay.

Bottom-line: 'NTR Kathanayakudu’, the first part of NTR Biopic, narrates the acting career of legendary actor in simple and plain manner. Balakrishna’s performance in the second half and some decent production work makes it watchable despite 'stagy' atmosphere and excruciatingly lengthy runtime. The biopic finally turns out to be an unabashed hagiography.

Reviewed by: 
J Gudelli