NTR: Kathanayakudu (2019)
Every now and then an actor gets a chance to cameo as their famous parent. Eddie Foy Jr appeared as his father at least three times and Gloria DeHaven, Dick Powell Jr, Robert Newhart, Desi Arnaz Jr and Melissa Rivers have all paid tribute to their parents on the silver screen. More substantially, Will Rogers Jr took the lead role in his father’s biopic The Story of Will Rogers and O'Shea Jackson Jr portrayed his father in Straight Outta Compton. While the involvement of family members may dictate that few negative aspects of their parents’ lives are aired, there still remains some scope for shading. Not that you will find any in NTR Kathanayakudu, in which Nandamuri Balakrishna turns his father's fascinating life into a marathon hagiopic.
After quitting his job as a government clerk because he could not abide the rampant corruption, Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao heads to Madras to become a film star. While waiting for his promised role, NTR almost starves himself by selflessly giving away his food coupons. Feeling deceived by the movie’s producers, NTR boards a train for home, but abandons his journey so that he may care for a pregnant women. Funding comes through for the movie, and soon NTR becomes a star, insisting he perform his own stunts so he doesn’t deceive his audience. Yet he threatens to give it all up when he is informed his charity work puts him in breach of his contract. Fortunately cooler heads prevail and NTR’s messianic rise continues, supported by a series of roles as Hindu deities.
Not satisfied that actions speak louder than words, NTR accompanies each act with a proclamation to stress its supposed significance. Other characters exist to merely marvel at his greatness. “With make-up he is a hero. Without make-up he is more than a hero” being one of the less subtle exaltations. As if further emphasis was required, the profusion of low-angle hero shots gives one the impression that they watching the film from the cinema’s front row. Not that we weren’t forewarned. The film’s introduction Nadamuri Balakrishna states that “God blessed me and motivated me to bring my parents story on the silver screen. I am sure my audience will support me and endorse me in this endeavour”. They didn’t. Both this film and its sequel NTR: Mahanayakudu, flopped at the box-office.
A scene depicting Nandamuri Balakrishna’s own naming ceremony features several characters, including his father, remarking how the child will remain forever young. Indeed, one goes so far as to state that “Even after 60 years he will be busy making all his dreams come true.” And it is true that when Balakrishna made these biopics he was the same age his father was at the end of his thirty year film career. Regrettably, though make-up manages to sell the sixty year old portraying NTR from his mid-twenties onwards, Balakrishna’s less than nimble performance does not.
Biopic contains numerous scene recreations from NTR's films including Mana Desam, Palletoori Pilla, Shavukaru, Pathala Bhairavi, Pelli Chesi Choodu, Kanyasulkam, Maya Bazaar, Gundamma Katha, Irugu – Porugu, Narthanasala, Sri Krishna Pandaveeyam, Adavi Ramudu, Yamagola, Vetagadu, Sardar Papa Rayudu and Bobbili Puli