NTR Kathanayakudu Story: NTR ( Balakrishna ) decides to foray into films with the support of his wife Basavatarakam (Vidya Balan). But what happens when the urge to serve people becomes a pull even bigger than his obsession for cinema?
NTR Kathanayakudu Review: Krish Jagarlamudi and Balakrishna’s ambitious project NTR Kathanayakudu aims to not just bring the much-loved superstar on-screen again posthumously, it also tries to offer a hint of the kind of man he was behind the makeup. If one expects the film to show an honest glimpse into the life of a man who stole hearts over five decades after getting there from nothing or show his struggle, they would be disappointed. Because, this is a film that treats the late Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao as the larger-than-life hero turned flawless god he was to his fans. Just when you think the hint of him being human is seeping through the miniscule cracks, the narrative ensures that never happens. While it is a disappointment to not see a great personality being humanised or treated as such and instead resorting to fan-service, where the film doesn’t fail is at showing his journey from the silver screen to politics.
Right from the get-go NTR (Balakrishna) is shown as a man who will not tolerate corruption and has Telugu pride seeped right into him. Quitting a government job, he makes the risky move of foraying into cinema with the support of his wife Basavatarakam (Vidya Balan). Once there, after landing roles in Manadesam and Palletoori Pilla, the journey to him being a household name because of his roles in films like Patala Bhairavi, Mayabazar, Gundamma Katha, Kanya Sulakam and more is well-known. What is also known is how his portrayals of Krishna and Ravana on-screen earned him laurels. NTR Kathanayakudu recreates scenes from old movies (with NTR’s flawless dialogues left untouched and Balakrishna only lip syncing them) and these are a delight to watch on-screen for the most part. Especially; the episode that dramatically showcases how difficult it was for the film’s team to show him as the ten-headed Ravana in Seetharama Kalyanam.
Where the film gets interesting and picks up pace it lacks otherwise is when the death of a loved one makes the star decide to drown himself in work – pushing him to break boundaries that had never before been broken in Telugu cinema and by choosing risqué roles. And later, how the death of many in Diviseema moves the same cinema-obsessed man to take the leap of faith to do something more. This is where the film hints, with an aptly placed dialogue, that one might just also get a glimpse into the human that the actor was in NTR Mahanayakudu, with the makeup finally wiped clean.
While the film might not treat NTR as nothing less than a god, it is interesting how the director showcases everyone else around him. His wife is shown as the backbone behind his every decision, small and big. Balakrishna and Vidya Balan deliver honest and engaging performances, with the former fitting the role effortlessly, especially in the latter half of the film. Kalyan Ram nails it as his late father Harikrishna, the man who stood by his father through thick and thin. The camaraderie shown between ANR (Sumanth) and NTR too is refreshing, going much beyond the rivalry they shared on-screen. What is also showcased honestly is the rapport they shared with Savitri (Nithya Menen), caring for her enough to warn her of her ways.
NTR Kathanayakudu is filled with cameos that are wonderful for most part, especially when Chandrababu Naidu (Rana Daggubati) makes an appearance at his snarky best, so does a demure Sridevi (Rakul Preet). But, the blink-and-miss appearances and cinematic references get a bit too much after a while. MM Keeravani does a stupendous job with his background score setting the mood for many scenes, so does Gnana Sekhar VS with the cinematography.
An uneven narrative, slow pace, thin storyline and the refusal to humanise the great actor hold back the film from what it could’ve been. But not all is lost, for the stupendous performances make it worth a watch, so does the promise of delivering more in NTR Mahanayakudu.
Also See: ‘NTR-Kathanayakudu’: The team offers prayers at Tirumala temple