Film: NTR Mahanayakudu
Director: Krish; Cast: Nandamuri Balakrishna, Vidya Balan, Rana Daggubatti
Without a shadow of a doubt, NTR Mahanayakudu is a worthy weighty sequel to NTR Kathanayakudu which came a few months ago.
The story of N T Rama Rao's rise as the political voice of Andhra Pradesh could not have obtained such a deep voice and lasting resonance was it not for the director Krish's absolute control over the narrative. We have seen Krish handle period films with panache in the past. His last outing in the genre Manikarnika was marred by some ugly interference.
Here in the NTR bio-pics, he is given a free hand to explore the dynamics of Andhra politics as seen through the eyes of a politician who rewrote the rules of democratic governship even as he struggled to retain his self-worth as it was assaulted from disgruntled political forces.
In one sequence of this tightly-edited handsomely packaged paean to an idealist-politician, two women from his rival's camp virtually attack him physically in parliamentary and loudly wish him dead as NTR sits stoically under the glare of the worst possible humiliation. But Balakrishna's NTR never melts down.
When asked why didn't speak up NTR warns, "Do not mistake my silence for weakness."
It is indeed a masterstroke to get NT Rama Rao's son to play the multi-layered actor-politician who was many things to his family, fans and followers. The script subsumes all of the roles with smartly written lines and pithy plot movements. The film takes an objective view of the subject, treating NTR as a man who was almost anointed a god by his fans.
In furiously spectral mob sequences we see NTR bonding with his disciples, lecturing to them, holding their hands in smiling conversation. Playing the man who would be God, Balakrishna brings empathetic energy to the part. Gentle and ferocious in turns and sometimes together, the actor is able to bring forward the myriad shades of the passionate politician and the dedicated householder.
NTR's growing bonding with his political rival turned most trusted lieutenant Chandrababu Naidu is beautifully etched into the film's pulsating political framework. Rana Daggubatti gives the best performance of his career so far as Chandrababu. Almost unrecognizable in that reedy makeup he brings a harnessed fire and fierce sincerity to his role.
I wish there was more of Vidya Balan as NTR's wife. There was more of her in the first part of the biopic. For most of this film, whenever she is there, she throws adoring glances at her husband. Her death, however, will leave you teary-eyed.
Fiercely dedicated to making NTR's real-life image come alive on celluloid, director Krish shows us who is the boss of the epic drama. If you have seen the first part of the director's Krish bio-pic then you can't afford to miss the second part. If you haven't seen the first part you will undoubtedly want to go back to it after seeing this stormy engaging saga of a man who refused to be slotted as a singer and wannabe politician. He had to be the best. This film has no quibbles with NTR's lunge towards excellence.