Nandamuri Taraka Rao: The Messiah of the Masses

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Nandamuri Taraka Rao, born on 28 May 1923 at Nimmakuru, Krishna in Andhra Pradesh, is one of the best known personalities of Andhra Pradesh. His accomplishments range from acting to running state government. Best known for his work in Telugu Cinema, he was an Indian film director, actor, producer, screenwriter, politician and Chief Minister.

T. Rama Rao completed his school education from Municipal School and intermediate from the SRR & CVR College, Vijaywada. He enrolled himself, for graduation, at the Andhra Christian College, Guntur and obtained his arts degree from there. While his school and college days, he was engaged with theatres.

In Madras Presidency, during British India, he qualified for the civil services and began his professional career in the place called Mangalagiri as a sub-registrar. Soon, to chase his dreams of becoming an actor, he quit his job. In 1949, he finally made his acting debut with the Telugu film called Mana Desam. From 1949 to 1982, he acted in surplus of 300 films and besides acting; he also directed more than a dozen films. For his achievement he received a cult figure status. He was best known for his portrayal of Hindu Gods on screen.

The films that brought NTR name, fame, and a ‘devoted following’ were those where he played the character of Lord Rama or Lord Krishna or other heroic Gods, and mythological characters. The first of the many blockbuster hits he gave playing a God was P Pullaiah’s Sri Venkateswara Mahatyam in 1960, where he played the character of the deity presiding in the Tirupati temple. This created a major buzz, following which devotees of Tirupati, in fact, started visiting him in Madras after their trip to the temple!

He decided to quit acting, since he became a well-known public figure and started work in the interest of Telugu speaking people in India. He therefore founded a political front named TDP (Telugu Desham Party) in 1982.  His party won the 1983 state elections in Andhra Pradesh and he was made the Chief Minister of the State. It was for the first time since 1956 that Andhra had a Chief Minister from a non-congress party.

Some of NTR’s significant achievements as the Chief Minister included, passing the law which gave equal rights to daughters for inheritance of ancestral property, introducing Engineering, Agricultural, and Medical Common Entrance Test (EAMCET) to prevent donation in colleges, providing the poor who were earning below Rs.500/- rice at a subsidized rate of Rs. 2/-, providing subsidies for electricity, railways, medical care and housing, and computerizing ticketing for Tirupati temple visits to encourage tourism to the temple. At the age of 72, he died of a heart attack in his residence in Hyderabad but still his Chief Minister Years are remembered fondly by the people and he is known as ‘the Messiah of the Masses’.

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