By now, it is firmly established that the two films that form the biopic on NT Rama Rao – are the biggest flops in Telugu cinema this year.
In fact, the franchise is one of the biggest debacles of Telugu cinema, and in the individual careers of actor Balakrishna and director Krish. I had reviewed the first film (read review here), and got a number of messages and mails to review the second one. But I am a man of limited bravery and patience. The first part made me question the point of my existence, and a man can only go so far in the pursuit of truth.
Well, it turns out that Part 2 performed worse than the first film, earning less than 50% revenues of the prequel. If you’re reading this, you probably did not turn up at the theatres either. As a humanitarian gesture, and for the interests of society and mankind in general, Yours Truly decided to watch the film and deliver my expert opinion.
There are a few prominent reasons why films have sequels or second parts. It could be that the film won the hearts of audiences, and the makers realise further potential in the story. The other reason could be that the film earned a lot of money and producers want to milk some of the fame of the first part.
NTR Mahanayakudu fulfills neither of these categories and yet we are subjected to a sequel for a biopic that nobody gives a rat’s ass about. The entire film is shot like an epic. It’s like the makers did us the viewers a favour by making the film in the first place.
There is no effort to explain the many twists and turns that NTR’s political career takes – we are expected to know what happened. It reminds me of the Bhagwad Gita scene in Mahabharat. Nobody raises an eyelid when the scene comes on, because we already know that it’s a part of the story. This movie is shot in the same way, with an overarching feel of a religious epic.
Biopics that work succeed not because they are great, epic stories – we already have mythologies for that. Biopics work because they humanise the person being revealed. We connect to the jealousy in the mind of Amadeus. We understand that Mark Zuckerberg is an awkward, jittery, egoistic man in The Social Network.
NTR Mahanayakuducontinues to depict NT Rama Rao as Maryada Purushottam Shree Ram – one who possesses no flaws, always thinks about his people, is a loving parent and husband. He is personally shown designing the logo of the party. On one occasion, he is unable to attend the wedding of his children, so he quickly sketches a hyper-real 3D pencil sketch of the jewellery he wants designed for his children’s weddings.
It’s all mind-numbingly boring that you could be watching a documentary on an ant-eater on Animal Planet. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the makers asked us to stand up at the end of the movie to perform arati and abhishekam to NTR.
Actor Balakrishna remains the number one reason why the film doesn’t work. Unlike the first film, where grey chest hair peeked out of his shirt while playing a 24-year-old, Balakrishna certainly looks more the part. And yet, his delivery is shoddy. His idea of impersonating the late actor is by raising his voice and his left hand in the air. Walk into the streets of Krishna Nagar, and you will find mimicry artists that will deliver a much more convincing performance of the man. And yet, nobody bothers telling Balakrishna to amp down his performance.
The entire performance is campy and caricature-like. The only performance worth mentioning is Vidya Balan, who essays the role of Basavatarakam – NTR’s wife and constant support.
However, her character is shown to constantly agree and egg the protagonist. She has the tired face of an actor who has shot four consecutive movies with Inder Kumar. Essentially, doormat throughout the film.
One sees a glimmer of hope when Rana Daggubatti comes on screen as the younger Chandrababu Naidu. He is shown in a heroic light, as someone who stood by NTR during his crisis. The film, however, ends with NTR sweeping back to power in the stage after being backstabbed by his political partner.
The filmmakers do not possess the scrotum to narrate this event – and it is upto people like Ram Gopal Varma who will be releasing his version – Lakshmi’s NTR – in a few weeks
However, it skips out the most important portion of his life. It is a part of Telugu political folklore today. In 1993, a few years after the events of the film, NTR Rama Rao married his biographer Lakshmi Parvathi – a rank outsider in politics. Fearing a usurp of power, Chandrababu Naidu organised a coup and removed NT Rama Rao from the Chief Minister’s seat. NT Rama Rao carried the grudge to his deathbed, often referring to Chandrababu Naidu as a ‘back-stabber’. The filmmakers do not possess the scrotum to narrate this event – and it is upto people like Ram Gopal Varma who will be releasing his version – Lakshmi’s NTR – in a few weeks.
When asked why the incident did not find a mention in the film, director Krish claimed that his version is like Valmiki Ramayana – it ends when Lord Ram returns to his kingdom. Which is a fair argument to make, but the film ends up appearing completely dishonest in its approach.
The film ultimately comes across as a political tool timed perfectly a few months before elections. To further add context, Yatra – a biopic on Chandrababu Naidu’s biggest opponent – YS Rajashekar Reddy – starring Mammooty was released last month to good reviews. According to news reports, Indian political parties spent a total of $5 billion in the 2014 General Elections. Compared to such a huge amount, 100 crores on a movie seems like peanuts. That is probably why the entire film reeks of dishonesty.
People might vote for a party, but to assume they are brain-dead zombies who will swallow everything thrown at them is downright stupid. NTR Mahanayakudu is a dull, dead, dishonest film.
I am glad it tanked without a trace. I hope Telugu producers realise that times are changing. People can access the greatest movies of the world by tapping on their phone. That the age of the pot-bellied superstar who spits navarasas at the audience has well and truly come to an end.
The fact that the two films failed so miserably gives film critics like me hope.