When he is not making a controversial movie, he is making controversial statements. Always provocative. Always in-the-face, curt and brutal.
Even before the dust kicked off by his controversial biopic on NTR — the legendary Telugu actor and founder of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) — could settle down, the maverick film maker Ram Gopal Varma has stirred a hornet’s nest by rooting for NTR’s grandson ‘Junior NTR’ to take over the mantle of the TDP, which suffered humiliating drubbing in the recent Assembly elections.
For the present TDP dispensation, headed by NTR’s son-in-law N Chandrababu Naidu, it is nothing short of blasphemy to talk about handing over the party’s baton to any other member of NTR’s family. Naidu took over the reins of the regional party after dethroning his father-in-law in a bitter family coup in August, 1995. Since then, he has been running the party with an iron grip and has been grooming his son Nara Lokesh as his political successor.
However, the April 11 Assembly elections dealt a major blow to Naidu as his party lost power with its tally being reduced to 23 in the 175-member Assembly. Lokesh’s tryst with electoral politics ended in a disaster as he was defeated in Mangalagiri constituency.
‘Bring Junior NTR to save party’
The TDP’s worst nightmare is to handle the demand for anointing NTR’s grandson as the party head to infuse new blood and rejuvenate a demoralised organisation. By raking up ‘Bring Junior NTR to save the party’ slogan, RGV has hit the TDP where it hurts the most.
‘Junior NTR’ (Tarak for his friends) is a popular Telugu film star with striking resemblance to NTR who enjoys demi-god status among Telugus. Not just the physical similarities, his acting style and dialogue delivery evoke memories of NTR. This has made him a big hit, particularly among the youth.
However, Junior NTR (36), was, for a long time, disowned by the first family of the TDP. Son of Nandamuri Harikrishna, he was born out of wedlock. He was accepted into the family fold only after he made a mark in Tollywood. Harikrishna, an actor too, died in a road accident last year in August. He was believed to have pushed for a greater role for his son in the party but his efforts were never met with success.
The only time the TDP utilised the services of Junior NTR was during the 2009 Assembly polls in combined Andhra Pradesh. He was the party’s star campaigner, drawing huge crowds in the coastal region and making an instant connect with the youth. In speeches, gesticulations and in attire, he evoked the memories of NTR’s legendary roadshows that are now part of Andhra’s political folklore.
However, Junior NTR’s electioneering came to an abrupt end after he met with a road accident in the middle of the campaigning and was advised complete rest for a few weeks. In the elections that followed, the Congress returned to power for a second term under the leadership of YS Rajasekhar Reddy. Since then, the TDP has virtually ignored Junior NTR.
RGV, the mercurial producer-director who has been having a running battle with the TDP leadership, conducted a Twitter poll on the question: Will the TDP become a great party with Tarak as its leader?
The poll saw 79 per cent of the total 41,911 respondents voting in favour of NTR Jr taking over the party. This comes as a big embarrassment for the TDP. Rubbing salt to the wounds, the filmmaker described May 30, the day Jaganmohan Reddy took oath as Chief Minister, as the “backstabber’s political death.” This was a reference to Chandrababu Naidu ‘back-stabbing’ NTR and grabbing power from him in 1995.
In the run-up to the recent elections, RGV’s biopic on NTR, titled ‘Lakshmi’s NTR’, was a source of major embarrassment for the TDP as it portrayed Naidu in poor light. The movie was not released in the state till the election process got over. The film tells the story of NTR from the perspective of his second wife Lakshmi Parvathi who is a persona non grata for the present TDP dispensation.
The film focuses on the final stages of NTR’s life when he was tormented by the rebellion within his party led by Naidu. It is a hard-hitting take on the political drama surrounding NTR’s dethronement.