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Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao, aka NTR was the Telugu megastar, producer, director and politician. He was born in farming family in Nimmakuru, Gudiwada district on 28th of May 1923. He studied in Vijayawada where he started acting in and directing college plays, often playing female roles. He attracted attention for his role Prince Salim in Muddu Krishna's Anarkali. He staged plays along with Kongara Jaggaiah at Andhra Christian College, Guntur (like Chesina Papam, 1946) and at the amateur National Arts Theater group, which he set up in 1946. It was also an effective fund-raiser for draught and famine relief in the AP in early 50's. With the film Todu Dongalu, the company bacame N.A.T film, run by his brother N Trivikrama Rao in 1954. NTR worked briefly as a clerk in Registrar's office at Guntur in 1947.

He film debut was Mana Desam that was directed by LV Prasad in which he played a small role. His first heroic character was done in BA Subba Rao's Palletoori Pilla. He broke through with LV Prasad's Shavukar and had a two-year contract with the Vijaya studios (hits include Pathala Bhairavi, Malleswari and Pelli Chesi Choodu), making him as the top star of Telugu cinema along with Akkineni Nageswara Rao.

His first mythological film was Mayabazaar, playing Lord Krishna, a role he played in 17 films (typically in those by K Kameswara Rao) and often invoked his political career. His 'living God' personal took of with P Pullaiah's hit 'Sri Venkateswara Mahatyam', playing the deity of Tirupati temple. He cultivated this identification, even publicly receiving devotees from Tirumala in front of his Madras house.

He often directed himself in mythologicals playing multiple roles, e g Daana Veera Sura Karna and Sri Rama Pattabhishekam. Later on he started with melodrama (e.g. Palleturu) and folk fantasies. He later modulated, often via younger actresses like Sridevi, into vigilante characters facing a corrupt society adapting the Prakash Mehra-type movie into Telugu (Yughandar, Vetagadu, Bobbili Puli etc).

He set up the populist regional Telugu Desam Party in 1982, which unseated Congress in AP for the first time since Independence. He was the chief minister of the state until 1989 when his party was defeated. Civil liberties activist K Bala Goal has extensively analyzed NTR's reign as the chief minister, linking NTR's films with his populist politics representing a Telugu regional bourgeoisie. NTR returned to film making in 1990 to direct and act in Brahmarshi Vishwamitra, an unsuccessful campaign film for the 1991 general elections.

NTR is an icon in Andhra Pradesh and will be remembered by everybody in Telugu community forever.

By S Venkata Narayan

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