Telugu cinema’s most prolific director Krish Jagarlamudi is now at peace with his creative faculties. The last year has been turbulent for him. “I had to complete two political period films. Actually… three. Since there are two parts for the NTR saga. So I was working on three bio-pics one after another. Manikarnika and the NTR bio-pic in two parts. Now that NTR Mahanayakudu is finally out, I feel I can sleep in peace. I feel like a father whose three daughters are married. For the first time, since I started shooting these films I slept peacefully for the whole night. Otherwise, I had forgotten the difference between night and day.”
The first part of the NTR saga Kathanayakudu underperformed at the box-office. Krish is still in a daze over the outcome. “I have no clue why the first part of the biopic did n’t do as well as we expected. Everyone who saw it loved it. But not enough people went to see it in theatres. Now that it is on the internet I get innumerable messages saying how much people have liked NTR Kathanayakudu. I wish more people had made an effort to see it on the big screen. The two parts of the NTR saga were designed as a big-screen experience.”
Many feel that the two parts should have been released as one film.
But Krish disagrees. “It was not possible to release more than five hours of edited footage as one film. Nor could we cut down on the narrative width. This is not an ordinary man’s story. NTRji who played Lord Krishna on screen was actually revered as God by the people of Andhra. Making a film on his life in close association with his son (actor Balakrishna who plays N T Rama Rao) has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life. I’ve come away a better human being. And I hope audiences feel the same way at the end of the film.”
Krish and his leading man Balakrishan did contemplate putting all the material together in one film. “We thought we would do 5-hour film with two intervals, like Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker. But the idea was shot down. Today’s multiplex audience won’t sit through such lengthy films.”
Krish has no regrets over telling NTR’s story in two parts. “I am confident our film has a long shelf life. People will keep going back to the two-part biopic to know more about the only chief minister of the country who could take on Mrs Indira Gandhi.”
The second part has opened to encouraging box-office records.
Rationalizing the disparity in the response to the two parts Krish says, “The political atmosphere was heavily weighed against our film when the first part came out. Now the second part has come with no extra baggage. Audiences are watching it for what it is. An honest unpretentious tribute to the iconic N T Rama Rao.”
There have been reports in sections of the media about Balakrishna being unhappy with the end-product. Krish says this is wishful thinking on the part of those who can’t bear to see a collaboration so momentous coming to happy fruition. “There are people out there who wanted us to fail, wanted us to have a fallout. Bala Sir and I were one in our pursuit of a story that would do justice to the NTR legend. This film couldn’t have been made without the active support of Bala Sir. Our effort to tell the NTR was blessed by God and the great man himself. Nothing could stop us.”