It’s an ode to the legend flattered by a meta-performance and a remarkable instance happens to be – the theatre erupting “Jai Balayya” during a meta-scene where Balakrishna as NTR showers blessings upon young Balakrishna. Director Krish Jagarlamudi articulates India’s First Superstar N. T. Rama Rao through a comprehensive yet indulgent biopic extracting a demigod personality. NTR Kathanayakudu chronicles the life of NTR through a flawless and dynamic persona – its pure gold which hits right chords during crucial sequences like Krishna appearance. NTR, who received a demigod status remains dehumanized throughout; a tonality of a character feels missing. Nevertheless, Director Krish mounts comprehensive ensemble documenting a “legend” torn between the perception of idolizing and humanizing.
NTR Kathanayakudu has a hangover of Nag Ashwin’s Mahanati (2018) in terms of obvious Production Design and Setup, the comparison is unavoidable and unfading. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by an interesting, encapsulating, influential and legendary subject-matter, Krish as a writer successfully pens an insightful Screenplay. In the season of the biopic, where star cameos fail to justify the reason (last week’s Marathi release Bhai – Vyakti Ki Valli had a similar issue); Krish ensures a reason for the cameo-feature. Amidst a legend, every character and extensive plot receives a breathing space. Produced by Nandamuri Balakrishna, the indulgence is inevitable leading to a setback in the form of an overwhelming stale product – somewhere deep down, it fails to connect.
Though it explores NTR-Basavatarakam’s bond, it ends up being a mere backbone as Krish keeps churning NTR’s long filmography. The inner battles of NTR, as well as Basavatarakam, remain unexplored, the surface doesn’t make sure the existence of a connective element. Apart from few goosebumps-inducing and whistle worthy sequences like Krishna appearance, making of Ravana, political entry, etc. the film which runs approximately 2 hours 45 mins feels languorous. NTR Kathanayakudu‘s strength lies on the technical front, M M Keeravani’s BGM shuffles between the decade while transporting into the era through Chaplin-esque and Extravagant score defining era and personality. Cinematographer Gnana Shekar V S romances with overpowering frames, gently moving from an eye-level angle towards an authoritative form with low angles.
Balakrishna’s initial portions remain awkward, but gradually achieves the epitome of performance during the Political-shift. Delight as well as a relief during the recreational scenes which featured only his lip-sync over NTR’s voice. Vidya Balan delivers an emotive performance restrained through her expressive eyes while featuring a strong ensemble of terrific performances – from Rana Daggubati, Sumanth, Prakash Raj, Nithya Menon to Murli Sharma, Sachin Khedekar and Jisshu Sengupta.
NTR Kathanayakudu never humanizes NTR from his demigod status, marred by an indulgent narrative and languorous runtime. But, it’s an insightful ode as NTR’s obsession to serve people over cinema begins – the flaws take a backseat and NTR’s aura captives an affirmation. Idolising is an obsession too?
Release: 09 January, 2019
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