Andhra Pradesh: A parallel war

Screen war

Print edition : April 26, 2019

A still from “Lakshmi’s NTR” by Ram Gopal Varma. Photo: By Special Arrangement

A parallel war is being waged on the Telugu silver screen ahead of the elections in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana on April 11. Topping the charts in terms of controversy is the film by the mercurial director Ram Gopal Varma. Lakshmi’s NTR looks at the historic events leading to N.T. Rama Rao’s overthrow and his death from the perspective of his wife Lakshmi Parvathi.

The film Udaya Simha is in a different bracket because of its laudatory theme of how Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) supremo K. Chandrasekhara Rao (KCR) led the 13-year-long Telangana movement to a successful conclusion in 2014 when a separate State was carved out.

Tamil actor Karate Rajan plays KCR’s role in the film, which has a propagandist tinge as it seeks to run down former Congress Chief Ministers such as Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and N. Kiran Kumar Reddy and former Member of Parliament Lagadapati Rajagopal as doing their best to prevent Telangana from coming into being. Although its director, Krishnam Raju, claims it is not a biopic of KCR and focusses on the Telangana movement, it is undeniable that the film is bound to be another arrow in TRS’ publicity quiver before the election.

Under production since mid 2018, the film shows KCR’s offspring K.T. Rama Rao and Kavitha and nephew T. Harish Rao as those who made personal sacrifices to fight for the Telangana cause.

Ram Gopal Varma’s film, which has been panned by critics, seeks to portray Lakshmi Parvathi in a sympathetic light and NTR’s son-in-law N. Chandrababu Naidu as the villain of the coup against the aging leader in 1995. The film is seen as Varma’s answer to actor Balakrishna’s twin biopics of his father, N.T.R.: Kathanayakudu and N.T.R.: Mahanayukudu, in which he skirted political controversies involving Chandrababu Naidu and Lakshmi Parvathi.

Barely two months ago, another biopic, this time on Rajasekhara Reddy, was released. The popular Malayalam actor Mammootty played the role of YSR in the film Yatra, a tribute to the leader’s famous padayatra in 2003. The 1,600-km-long march boosted YSR’s popularity with each passing day and catapulted him to power the following year.


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