Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao (Telugu:నందమూరి తారక రామా రావు)(28 May 1923–18 January 1996), more commonly known as N.T. Rama Rao, NTR by his fans, or Anna garu, was an Indian film actor, director, producer, and politician. He founded the Telugu Desam Party and served three times as Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. His repertoire of films included mythological, social, and folk themes. He was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in the 1960s, recognising his contribution to Telugu cinema. After his film career, Rao became a political activist and party leader.
Born in Nimmakuru, Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh; he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Andhra-Christian College in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh. He later received an honorary doctorate from Andhra University.
Rao highlighted Andhra Pradesh's distinct cultural identity, distinguishing it from Madras State with which it was often associated.
NTR was referred to by fans as "Nata Sarvabhouma" (Emperor of Acting) in Telugu.
Though widely recognised for his mythological characters, Rao is considered one of the greatest actors in Telugu film, and in general in South Indian films. His portrayal of Lord Krishna in Maya Bazaar by B. Nagi Reddy, a producer at Vijaya Productions, was a turning point in his life. His portrayal of avatars of Vishnu, especially Rama ravana and Krishna, mesmerised an entire generation who saw the face of Rao when these gods were mentioned.
Rao had a major contribution to what can be considered the golden age of telugu film making, between 1950 and 1965. Analysts believe that the Telugu film industry produced some of the best mythological movies from India, while the Tamil and Hindi movie industry produced better socially oriented films.
NTR was naturally talented and extremely disciplined about various aspects of acting like preparation, punctuality, and dialogue delivery. An important factor that made him a great actor was his ability to deliver extremely lengthy dialogues that were original verses from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata with a fervour and command unmatched by most of his contemporaries, with certain exceptions like S. V. Ranga Rao whom people and industry will consider as best actor in Telugu film industry. In addition, he generally played multiple roles in the same movie, which increased the number of dialogues and hence the preparation required.
Rao was very versatile. In Tamilnadu, Shivaji Ganesan was much better known for his acting skill and talent and M. G. Ramachandran was much more known for his commercial movies. Rao struck a balance between both kinds of cinema. He used to perform roles in mythological movies like those only Shivaji could perform and even do commercial Janapadham (where the adventurous prince saves the damsel in distress) films which were Ramachandran's forte.
Rao, in fact, played the role of Lord Krishna not only in Telugu Movies, but also in Tamil and Kannada movies. While the megastars – Ramachandran, Shivaji Ganesan and Kannada Rajkumar vied for the roles of other Mahabharata heroes like Karna, Arjuna and Bhima, there was no denying that NTR would be the only one to play Lord Krishna. This is probably the greatest tribute to Rao's charismatic cine-genius.
One of his greatest janapadams was "Jagadekaveeruni katha" (the story of the universal hero) where he plays the role of Pratap, the prince of Ujjain. He dreams of celestial damsels as his wives, but on revealing the dream to his father, he is banished from the kingdom. The heroic prince then does the impossible - passing the various tests put to him, winning the celestial damsels and bringing them home to his kingdom. Another one of his janapadams was "Gulebakavali katha" (the story of Gulebakavali) where he plays the role of a prince who sets out to the heavens to bring the flower named "Gulebakavali" in order to cure his poisoned father, even wining Indra's daughter in the process.
As time passed by, Rao stopped playing the role of the prince in films. Instead, he played the role of a poor yet heroic young man against the system in his kingdom. To the lakhs of the denizens in Andhra Pradesh, he became 'one of us' -- one who assures the poor that he is there to rescue them from the wicked traitors in the kingdom.
One criticism levelled by the upper-classes of society was that Rao over-acted in his social roles (especially in comparison with his contemporary Akkineni Nageswara Rao (ANR)).
The most notable movies acted by Rao in mythological characters are Maya Bazaar (Sri Krishna), Lava Kusa (Lord Rama), Sri Krishnaarjuna Yuddham (Sri Krishna), Bheeshma (Bheeshma), Bhookailas(Raavana), Nartanasala (Arjuna also as Bruhannala), Panadava-vanavsam (Bheema), Sri Venkateswara Mahatyam (Lord Venkateswara), Maha Mantri Thimmarusu (Sri Krishna Devarayalu) and Dana Veera Sura Karna (Duryodhana, Sri Krishna, Karna). Apart from these he played a variety of roles in folklore characters like Jagadeka Veeruni Katha, Pathala Bhairavi etc. On the social front he played roles in the movies Malliswari, Kanyasulkam, Gundamma Katha, Missamma, Raktha Sambandham, Ramudu Bheemudu, Adavi Ramudu, Vetagadu, Gajadonga, Driver Ramudu, Sardar Paparayudu, Kondaveeti Simham, Justice Chaudhary, Bobbili Puli etc. He acted in over two hundred and eighty movies in the lead role.
He also donned the roles of an elderly teacher (Badi Pantulu) becoming a model to his pupils, as a prince and pauper (Raju-Peda), a down to earth servant dedicated to his master (Aatma Bhanduvu).
Rama Rao formed the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) on 29 March 1982. While promoting a new film, he was asked a question by a person in the audience ayya, memu mimmalni devudu laga adarincamu, kani meeru maku emi chesaru? meaning Sir, we have treated you like a God but what have you done for us?. He was so moved by this that he formed TDP, and with a victory in the immediate election, formed the government and ruled the state of AP for a full term. He went into the elections with the slogan "Atma Gauravam" which meant "self-pride".
Like his films, the formation of the party and storming into the assembly was very dramatic. TDP came into power within nine months of its formation. Initially ridiculed by the Congress that state politics is not like movie acting among others, TDP was considered a no match for the Congress, with the local representatives unheard of, the complete burden rested on the shoulders of NTR, and true to his charisma he won the elections with a landslide majority. Among other reasons why he won the elections was no real alternative to the Congress, lack of development, unemployment etc. He was very well supported by Ramoji Rao who gave wide publicity through the Telugu daily Eenadu. NTR himself contested elections from the constituency of Hindupur in Anantapur District and Gudivada in krishna district.
During the first term as Chief Minister of AP, he got into the costumes of Swami Vivekananda and tried to govern the entire state solely on ideological terms which later proved to be disastrous. On Independence day, August 15, 1984, he was removed from office by the Governor of AP in view of a revolt by his aide and 2nd in command Nadella Bhaskar Rao. Due to the public agitation in favor of Rao the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had to dismiss the Nadella Bhaskar Rao government in just one month and hand power back to Rao. Then Rao dissolved the assembly and asked for fresh mandate in 1985.
He was returned to power; among the most significant changes he made was to abolish the Legislative Council of the State of Andhra Pradesh citing the reason that it was a non-performing body which just a burden on the state exchequer. Rao lost the subsequent elections held in 1989, but during the same period he gained valuable experience and had people like N. Chandrababu Naidu and Daggubati Venkateswara Rao (both sons-in-law) in his party.
Other contributions of Rao included the educational reforms he brought about in the state, where he overhauled the entire state's education syllabus for schools. He instituted statewide entrance examinations for all disciplines of higher education vis-à-vis Engineering, Medicine, Pharmacy, Law, and MBA to name a few. Students, based on the merit of their ranks obtained in these tests, could join any state college of their choice.
It is noteworthy that though he didn't know Hindi, he gave a speech for forty-five minutes in a packed stadium in Haryana. He later revealed that he had memorized the speech phonetically. Devilal, Haryana Leader was shocked to learn this, but Rao was always an electrifying man.
Even though he lost the 1989 elections, he shot to fame at the national level and was capable of uniting many regional parties. He formed the National Front with parties like Janata Dal , Bharateeya Janata party, CPI and CPM as an alternative to Congress.
NTR stormed back to power in 1994 when he promised he would offer rice at Rs. 2/kg and to make AP an "Alcohol Free" state. True to his word he kept his promises only to burden the state exchequer. He also faced serious problems within his party. N. Chandrababu Naidu led a sudden revolt against Rao and split the TDP into two. Naidu survived Rao's onslaught when Rao approached the public for an opinion. The break-up of the party and the drama that took place on the Tank-Bund near Hotel Viceroy (road connecting Hyderabad and Secunderabad on the banks of Hussain Sagar) were probably the last significant events in Rao's life. Naidu became the chief minister of AP on 29 august 1995.
The loss of power and the subsequent events can be summed up as the start of anti-climax in Rao's life with several people believing that his second wife Lakshmi Parvathi was responsible for happenings. Rao died soon after on 18 Jaunary 1996. Lakhs of people flooded to pay homage.even today crore of people remenber telugu bidda and mourn for his loss man who left ever lasting image amoung indians and espesially telugu people and a man revived sprituall films industry
NTR was survived by eight sons and four daughters. He has several grand sons and daughters, the best known amongst them are NTR Jr. and Nandamuri Kalyan Ram. Among his sons Nandamuri Balakrishna is a popular film actor in Telugu. Rao's daughter Bhuvaneswari who is also the wife of N. Chandrababu Naidu is the vice chairman of Heritage Foods one of South India's largest dairy company and Purandhreswari,wife of D.Venkateswara Rao is a minister in the current congress federal government.