N. T. Rama Rao
Born On: May 28, 1923
Born In: Andhra Pradesh, India
Died On: January 18, 1996
Career: Film Personality & Politician
Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao, more popular in India as N. T. Rama Rao, and often referred to as N T R back home in the south, was one of the most popular actors that has ever graced the South Indian film industry. N. T. Rama Rao had been a part of mostly Telugu films, but he has also starred in some popular Tamil and Kannada ventures during the second half of his film career. N T R portrayed lead roles and negative characters with equal panache and later shifted his attention to producing and directing films for the Telugu film industry. While his stint in Tollywood made him a legend in Andhra Pradesh, N. T. Rama Rao remained equally popular among the masses even after he retired from films and became a politician. N. T. Rama Rao had a very significant political career graph during which he tried his best to introduce policies for the well being of his state Andhra Pradesh.
N. T. Rama Rao was born on May 28, 1923 in the Nimmakuru village of Andhra Pradesh. Although his father was a farmer, the family was quite well-to-do and led a fairly lavish lifestyle. N. T. Rama Rao completed his primary years of schooling in Nimmakuru, later shifting to Vijayawada where he lived with an uncle who had adopted him. He attended a school in Vijayawada from his sixth standard. However, the tables of fortune soon turned and N. T. Rama Rao’s family could no longer be classified as rich. It was at this time that he took up his first job as a milk delivery boy in Vijayawada. He also became the clerk of a local provisional store. N. T. Rama Rao continued with his studies until he reached his twenties and was then a student of the Andhra University. It is said that N. T. Rama Rao possessed a lovely voice and was often found singing to himself during his youth. But destiny had some other plans for the actor who quit his first job in the civil services of India to enter as an actor in the Telugu film industry.
Acting always interested N. T. Rama Rao and he actively became a member of college plays and other stage shows while still in college. According to reports, the first role that was offered to N T R in a college play was that of a female. Though he agreed to portray the role, he was reluctant to part with his moustache! Most of the plays organized by him during this point of time were done to generate funds to serve the poor and ailing in the society. A young man in his twenties, his journey to stardom had just begun. What followed thereafter made N. T. Rama Rao a legend, making a place for him on the pages of Andhra Pradesh history. Meanwhile, the future legendary Tollywood actor had already tied the knot with the love of his life Basava Tarakam, the daughter of his maternal uncle, in the year 1942. Despite being a good student during his school years, an early married life led him to fail in a number of subjects in college. Nevertheless, N. T. Rama Rao was a determined student who never gave up on education despite repeated failures.
Career in Films:-
The year 1947 marked N. T. Rama Rao’s entry into the world of Telugu cinema. It was B. A. Subba Rao, a very well known producer of films made in South India, who first noticed the legend in the making N. T. Rama Rao. B A Subba Rao was so taken by the photograph of N. T. Rama Rao that he did not think twice before signing him as the hero for his upcoming film ‘Palleturi Pilla’. N. T. Rama Rao did not have to go through the routine of a screen test and make up test for his debut performance on the big screen. Though he was signed for B A Subba Rao’s film first, N. T. Rama Rao’s first onscreen venture was a tiny part of a policeman in the 1949 L V Prasad film ‘Mana Desam’. ‘Palleturi Pilla’, a film inspired from the English play ‘Pizaro’ went on to become a huge commercial hit in theaters across South India and won this talented actor much recognition. But times were hard for an actor during those days. Ever since N. T. Rama Rao had shifted base to Madras and taken up a rented space there to live close to his workplace, it became difficult for him to make end’s meet with the money that he received as remuneration from films. N. T. Rama Rao also had to go without food for many days to save money.
If year 1949 was good for N. T. Rama Rao, year 1951 was even better because it saw the release of K. V. Reddy’s film ‘Paathala Bhairavi’ and B. N. Reddy’s production ‘Malleeswari’. The former was a raging hit all over India and it was from here that the common man sat up and took notice of N. T. Rama Rao who was gradually making a place for himself in Tollywood and in the hearts of his fans. In the above mentioned film and in several others succeeding them, he was most often seen in the role of a legendary historic character or a common man hero. It was only in a handful of films that he played a negative character. The popularity of N. T. Rama Rao gradually increased and more producers were eager to work with him. In the year 1958, N. T. Rama Rao bagged the role of Ravana Brahma in the film ‘Bhoo Kailas’. The actor was more than happy to play the character because in the word of N. T. Rama Rao, Ravana was the best historical mythological character that he had read or heard about. In 1960 was released the first mythological film starring N. T. Rama Rao in the lead. ‘Sri Madvirata Parvam’ was based on the story of Lord Venkateswara who is a much loved deity in South India. The common man did not flinch from lining up outside theaters playing the film in odd hours of the day to watch their favorite actor N. T. Rama Rao.
Just like the popularity of N. T. Rama Rao as an actor increased, his remuneration also went up. His films ‘Lava Kusa’ and ‘Maya Bazar’ were record hits at the box office, breaking all previous records. N. T. Rama Rao remained an actor for more than 40 years of his life, giving his audience more than 300 films during the length of his illustrious career. He has been a part of more than 200 Telugu films, 15 Tamil films and also some Hindi and Kannada movies. N. T. Rama Rao was bestowed with numerous awards during his term as an actor. While Filmfare felicitated him ten times with the Best Actor Award (Telugu), his film ‘Varakatnam’ won National Award in 1968. Apart from that, he was also conferred with Padmashri Award from Government of India and an Honorary Doctorate from Andhra University. During the later half of his career in the South Indian film industry, N. T. Rama Rao took up scriptwriting and directing as his profession. Though he received no formal training in penning the dialogues of films, N. T. Rama Rao was successful in churning out some of the most popular scripts. He also took up direction of some of his own films like ‘Sitha Rama Kalyanam’ and ‘Daana Veera Soora Karna’.
Career in Politics:-
It was during the 1980s that N. T. Rama Rao retired from films to take up politics actively. Even when he was a part of the film industry, he always strived hard to convince the government to set up theaters in rural regions of Andhra Pradesh. He was one of the proponents of a governing system that would provide large sums of money for the proper production and distribution of movies. Therefore, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that a politician was always hidden within N. T. Rama Rao. He set up the Telugu Desam Party in the year 1982, following which N. T. Rama Rao was elected the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh three times between the years 1983 to 1994. In between, N. T. Rama Rao became the leader of the Telugu Dasam Legislature Party in 1983. N. T. Rama Rao believed that politicians should develop direct contacts with the common man and therefore, he made extensive journeys across the state of Andhra Pradesh to promote his Telugu Desam Party. The journey was made on a personal van named ‘Chaitanya Ratham’.
N. T. Rama Rao advocated for the cause of the poor in the society and to provide them with the basic necessities. He was also a champion for the cause of women’s rights in Andhra Pradesh. The bill which he proposed allowing women to inherit ancestral property was enacted in the year 1986. N. T. Rama Rao was such a popular politician that his Telugu Desam Party posed a threat to the existence of the Congress party in India. In the year 1984, N. T. Rama Rao was removed from the office of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister following the threat, though he won back his position later. It was during the era of N. T. Rama Rao that the Telugu Desam Party established itself as one of the strongest and most organized political parties in the country. The party was systematic in its operations and all the work was computerized even during that age, factors responsible for the Telugu Desam Party’s existence even after the death of founder N. T. Rama Rao. N. T. Rama Rao was unanimously elected the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh in 1994 in spite of the fact that he could not contest the elections owing to bad health. N. T. Rama Rao had suffered a stroke in 1989 after which his health deteriorated considerably.
N. T. Rama Rao had two wives. His first wife Basava Tarakam died of cancer after 43 years of their marriage in 1985. N. T. Rama Rao shared 7 sons and 4 daughters with his first wife. The actor-turned-politician married again in the year 1993 at the age of 70. Lakshmi Parvathi, his second wife subsequently took over the reins of the Telugu Desam Party. Most among the children and grandchildren of N. T. Rama Rao are either politicians in Andhra Pradesh or have joined the Telugu film industry.
Awards and Recognition:-
N. T. Rama Rao won ten Filmfare Awards in the Best Actor category in Telugu cinema, from the year 1954 until 1958 and then in 1961, 1962, 1966, 1968 and 1972. In 1968, his film, ‘Varakatnam’ was conferred with a National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Telugu. Additionally, N. T. Rama Rao was also awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1968 to commemorate his contribution to the world of Telugu cinema. The Andhra University felicitated the actor with an Honorary Doctorate in 1978.
N. T. Rama Rao died on January 18, 1996 at 72 years of age. He was a resident of Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh at the time of his death. He is still missed not only in Tollywood, but also in Andhra Pradesh politics.
1923: N. T. Rama Rao is born on May 28.
1942: Married Basava Tarakam.
1947: N. T. Rama Rao entered Tollywood.
1949: His first film ‘Mana Desam’ was released.
1951: Starred in record breaking hits.
1958: Played his first mythological character Ravana.
1960: Established himself as an actor of mythological roles.
1968: Was awarded the Padma Shri.
1982: Had set up the Telugu Desam Party.
1983: Became leader of the Telugu Dasam Legislature Party.
1984: Removed from Chief Minister’s post for posing threat to Congress.
1985: His wife died.
1989: Suffered mild stroke.
1993: Married for the second time at 70.
1994: Became Andhra Pradesh CM without campaigning elections.
1996: Died on January 18.