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Movie Review: 'NTR: Mahanayakudu'

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The Times Of India
21st February, 2019 23:15 IST
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NTR Mahanayakudu Story: Soon after taking the political plunge, NT Rama Rao sweeps the elections and is elected as CM of Andhra Pradesh. But he’s a political novice and his political foes seek to take advantage of it. When his own Finance Minister plans a coup against NTR, will he be able to fight back?

NTR Mahanayakudu Review: Just over a month after its first part NTR: Kathanayakudu, the much-awaited political journey of former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister NT Rama Rao came to life in Krish Jagarlamudi’s NTR: Mahanayakudu . Right at the outset, the audience has an idea about what’s going to unfold in front of them for the next couple of hours – NTR’s political journey is well documented after all. And yet, the filmmaker seems confused about what kind of a film he wants it to be – a love story or a dramatic thriller – and as the film progresses, it becomes a mix of both, and less of a biopic that it’s meant to be. Everything about this biopic seems to have been carefully thought out, which part of history to retell and which parts to ignore – perhaps, keeping in mind the optics ahead of the upcoming general elections. In NTR: Mahanayakudu, all you get is parts of NTR’s political journey, some told in a rushed manner, and some stretched beyond its potential.

The film takes off from where Kathanayakudu ends – with NTR (played by Nandamuri Balakrishna ) taking the political plunge. He’s seen as a political novice, almost dismissed as ‘just an actor’ by seasoned politicians. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, advances AP elections by eight months, in an attempt to catch NTR by surprise and blow him away. But NTR has people on his side, and he sweeps the election – there’s a telling moment that signifies the change in political winds when people leave Indira Gandhi’s rally to join NTR’s. The film actor becomes the Chief Minister, aided by Nadendla Bhaskar Rao ( Sachin Khedekar ) who joins his cabinet as the Finance Minister.

Soon after winning the elections, NTR inducts his son-in-law. Chandrababu Naidu ( Rana Daggubati ) into the party. A shrewd politician, Naidu mobilises the party workers to ensure continued success for NTR. However, things take a turn when NTR’s wife Basavatarakam ( Vidya Balan ) gets diagnosed with cancer and NTR has heart issues. As NTR flies to the US to get an open-heart surgery while his wife undergoes cancer treatment, back home Bhaskara Rao stages a political coup to upstage NTR and take over the CM seat himself. How NTR fights back against the unjust coup against him makes for the rest of the film.

As was the case in the first part, NTR is shown as a holier than thou figure, who has a magic wand that brings people closer to him. The journey of him getting elected goes by in a flash – all he has to do is take a dusty old vehicle, turn it into a ratham and campaign among the masses. The film regularly switches to the love story between NTR and Basava Tarakam, which gets a tad too melodramatic right till the end. Basava Tarakam is shown as NTR’s backbone and interestingly, is shown to convince NTR to fight back against Bhaskara Rao when he stages the political coup against him. “Come back when you become CM again,” an ailing Basava Tarakam tells him.

A coup that lasted 31 days makes up for the majority of this ‘biopic’, with ample cinematic liberties taken, especially during scenes involving the assembly sessions. Nandamuri Balakrishna as NTR takes some getting used to but he seems to be more at ease playing the older version of NTR than the younger self seen in the first part. Vidya Balan gets a meaty role and sinks her teeth into it, while Sachin Khedekar is effective as usual. But the surprise element is Rana Daggubati, who does a splendid job as Chandrababu Naidu. His look and dialogue delivery is spot on and he’s extremely convincing and relatable as the younger Naidu.

As far as political biopics go, NTR:Mahanayakudu falls way short of expectations. The focus is clearly on parts the makers want to show and even while glorifying NTR, the focus is hardly on his governance or policies but more on the awfully stretched slugfest between NTR and Bhaskara Rao and him taking the fight to Delhi.

But for all the euphoria surrounding the legendary actor-politician, NTR:Mahanayakudu shows only parts of one term of a three-term CM. To call it a biopic would be a great disservice to NTR’s political journey.

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