Rama Rao was born in a farmer’s family at Nimmakuru, Krishna district
of Andhra Pradesh on 28th of May 1923 at 4.32pm. His mother wished to name his
son as Krishna, but his uncle named him as Taraka Ramudu, which later confined
as Taraka Rama Rao. His parents Nandamuri Lakshmiah
Chowdhury and Venkata Ramamma least imagined that this child was going to be
uprise as an remarkable persona in his future and going to come across a golden
thrown for him in the Andhra Pradesh history.
In spite of being a farmers family
NTR’s parents respected education.
NTR’s basic education was finished at his
native place Nimmakuru. His father carried him on his shoulders to a school that
is far away from their house. When his uncle Ramaiah adopted
NTR, he was taken to Vijayawada concerning his
further education. NTR had joined in sixth class at Gandhi Municipal School at
Vijayawada. When his parents met with a bad patch frantically, NTR used to help
them by tying the milk cans on both sides of his cycle and distributing them to
the hotels and dwellers of farer places from their house. It was his first taste
of the dignity of labour. He had undertaken so many things to earn the daily
bread for their family. He ran a small provision store and worked as a clerk. In
spite of all these things he remained a good student in his school and later in
college. While he was studying Intermediate at S.R.R. College at Visakha Patnam,
Viswanatha Satyanarayana who was the head of the Telugu dept there asked NTR to
play a female role where NTR reluctantly agreed to play the role but having his
moustache! That incidence fetched him the nickname meesaala naagamma.
Marriage It was while NTR was doing his
Intermediate, that he got married to his maternal uncle’s daughter
Basavatharakam in May 1942. Because of the distraction caused by marriage, he
failed in Intermediate twice. However, he didn’t give it up and proved his will
power by succeeding in the examination later, and had joined in B.A. at Andhra
Christian College, Guntur. There was always an instinct in him towards acting.
It was that instinct in him which drove him towards the stage. The amateur
National Arts Theatre group (NAT) at Andhra Christian College, Guntur in 1946,
and started performing and directing many stage plays like ‘Chesina Paapam’
along with Kongara Jaggiah, Mukkamala and K.V.S. Sarma. They raised money for
the welfare of poor people, and for draught and famine relief funds during early
50’s. In addition NTR was a good
illustrator. He had even won a prize in painting competition held at state
level. When Subhash Chandra Bose visited Vijayawada,
NTR gifted a portrayal of Bose to him.
Taraka Rama Rao completed his graduation in the year 1947. He
later passed in the Madras Service Commission Exam – out of 1,100 members only
seven were selected and Rama Rao was one among them. Thus he settled down in a
sub registrar’s job at Mangalagiri in 1947. Nevertheless, it became a brief
period as he worked only for three weeks and refrained from the job since he got
a prospect in films.
The great career
B.A. Subba Rao, the famous film producer happened to see
NTR’s photograph at L.V. Prasad. He called up NTR to Madras and fixed
him up as the hero for his film ‘Palleturi Pilla’, without any make up test or
screen test at all. Even though L.V. Prasad was a bit hesitant towards Subba
Rao’s idea, he never took heed and made an agreement with Rama Rao after giving
him a remuneration of Rs.1,116/-. But it was the film ‘Mana Desam’, for which
Rama Rao faced the camera for the first time, in the year 1949.
Rama Rao was offered a small role as a sub
inspector in that film. His first lead role was in the film ‘Palleturi Pilla’,
in 1950 followed by L. V. Prasad’s ‘Shavukar’ in the same year.
After his two films, NTR moved his abide to
Madras. He took a small room for rent near the Thousand Lights area in Madras.
When the money, which was given to him for ‘Palleturi Pilla’ was spent over,
Rama Rao struggled a lot. He couldn’t afford
money even for the bus fares. He factually starved for three days as he had left
with no money and did not make even his roommates (famous producer Yoganand one
among them) know.
Stardom came to him with K.V. Reddy’s film ‘Paathala Bhairavi’ (1951), which was
followed by B.N. Reddy’s ‘Malleeswari’ (1951), L.V. Prasad’s ‘Pelli Chesi Choodu’
(1952) and K. Kameswara Rao’s ‘Chandra Haaram’. All of these movies were of the
famous firm Vijaya. For all each of the film Rama Rao was offered Rs 500/- per
month as salary and Rs 5,000/- as the remuneration. His film ‘Paathala Bhairavi’
turned to be a sensational hit, which broke all the records by running 100 days
in 34 centres and 25 weeks in 13 centres and 50 days in one center. N.T.R. with
his sharp nose and radiating smile, with his curl hair and tall figure captured
almost all the hearts of Andhra Pradesh.
In 1958, A.V.M. Chettiyar determined to make his film ‘Bhoo Kailas’ under K.
Shanker’s direction. He preferred the fine-looking young man N.T. Rama Rao for
the role of Ravana Brahma and Akkineni Nageswara Rao as Narada Maharshi and S.V.
Ranga Rao for the Maya Brahma role. Rama Rao was exceedingly happy to get his
favored role of Ravana Brahma since Rama Rao thought Ravana was the best
legendary character that he had ever seen. After the release of the film in
1959, NTR studied more about Ravana’s
character, as he wanted to reenact the role in such a way that no body could
ever do the role like him. His first mythological film P. Pullaiah’s ‘Sri
Venkateswara Mahatyam’ (1960) was a tremendous hit. The devotees of Lord
Venkateswara lined up in front of his house for NTR’s
darshan, after the release of the film. He played five roles in the film ‘Sri
Madvirata Parvam’. Such was the charisma, which NTR
was having among his fans. In his 44 years of film career, Rama Rao had acted in
about 297 films, out of which 280 are Telugu, 15 Tamil and 4 Hindi films. 44 of
his films were mythological, 13 were historical, 55 fictional and 185 films were
social. 140 of his films celebrated hundred days and 33 films celebrated silver
Jubilees while six of his films ran more than 50 weeks. In 1950s
NTR was the most cherished hero who was acting in 10 films per year.
His film ‘Lava Kusa’ an all time hit, which was released in 1963, made a record
by running 75 weeks in a center and 100 days in 63 centres. For his film ‘Maya
Bazar’ for Lord Krishna’s role, which was released in 1956,
Rama Rao took Rs.7, 500/-, which was said to be the highest
remuneration in those days. For about 22 years since he entered into films
Rama Rao’s remuneration was around 4 or 5
digits. From 1972 it had grown to one lakh for each film and after some time, it
went up around 7 lakhs onwards.
NTR’s directed his first film ‘Sitha Rama
Kalyanam’ in 1961 under his own banner N.A. T. films which was managed by his
brother Trivikrama Rao. In that film Rama Rao played das Ravana Brahma in such
way no other actor could imagine doing that. Even Nageswara Rao told that he
became NTR’s fan after seeing that film.
Later He directed himself in a triple role in ‘Daana Veera Soora Karna’ in 1977
he also directed the film ‘Sri Rama Pattabhishekam’ in 1978. His social films
‘Adavi Ramudu’ and ‘Yamagola’ were huge box- office hits. NTR harked back to
produce, act and direct the film ‘Brahmarshi Vishwamitra’ in 1990 to campaign
for the 1991 general elections.
NTR was a strict disciplinarian. He used to
practice hard on the shores of marina Beach at Madras, to retain his bass and
echoic voice for excellent dialogue delivery and base modulations. When he was
in his forties and was working for the film ‘Narthana Saala’, he learnt Bharath
Natyam at Vempati China Satyam to make the role justified. Such was
NTR’s dedication towards his profession. He
never stumbled or stammered in front of the camera as he used to take all the
dialogues by heart when he was doing a particular film. He woke up early always
and never missed doing physical exercises.
He made his way into politics in 1982 by setting up his own regional party,
‘Telugu Desam Party’ (TDP) aspiring to shield the pride of the Telugu People all
over the world. He had beaten Congress-I in the first elections and became the
non Congress Chief Minister for the first time in India. No other politician
entered into politics within nine months of their entry into politics. He had
brought in the 'slab system' in film field in 1984. The system facilitated the
producers as well as the distributors largely. He was the chief minister of the
state till 1989 when his party was discomfited. He was elected to be the
Chairman of ‘National Front Party’.
As the Time grabs everybody to its cold lap, Nandamuri
Taraka Rama Rao, a great legend died in 1996 at the age of 73 leaving
no other person to replace his place. He is not among us physically he remains
unaltered in the hearts of millions of people of Andhra Pradesh.