Life before RRR: The best of NTR Jr's films

Subhash K Jha picks five of NTR Jr’s best performances on his birthday

NTR Jr (Photo: Getty Images)
NTR Jr (Photo: Getty Images)

Subhash K Jha

Student No 1 (2001) 

Once upon a time SS Rajamouli was known for more than just Baahubali. In fact, he made his directorial debut with this campus action film. NTR Jr’s breakthrough as a leading man, Student No 1 featured him as a convicted criminal who is given permission to attend college. Now don’t ask, Yeh kaha hota hai? (Where does this happen?) NTR Jr is one of those Telugu superstars who can get away with a murder. That’s what he does in this entertaining far-fetched flick. The film was a blockbuster and set  both Rajamouli and NTR Jr on their path to superstardom.

Simhadri (2003) 

An out-and-out NTR Jr vehicle, this one is again directed by Rajamouli  and shows the director’s roots in the traditional South Indian family drama. NTR Jr plays an orphan who would go to any lengths for his adopted  family, bailing them out of impending bankruptcy and disrepute with the celerity of a sharpshooter determined to win gold at Olympics in archery and gun shooting. The twists and turns in the plot are mindboggling. NTR Jr fans saw the film repeatedly to ingest the  convoluted plot.

Yamadonga (2007)

The third collaboration of NTR Jr and Rajamouli was the most absurd and [hence?] the most successful of the three. NTR Jr plays an orphan in love with a wealthy girl (Priyamani, Manoj Bajpai’s wife in The Family Man). Her greedy relatives capture all her wealth and treat her like  a househelp until NTR Jr rescues her. He then dies and goes to Heaven (where else can the celluloid God go?). In Heaven NTR Jr has long dialogues with Yama Raj, played by Mohan Babu. The other film where I saw the hero conversing with Yama Raj was Lok Parlok where Premnath played the God of death.

Baadshah (2013)

Moving away from his lucrative collaboration with Rajamouli, NTR Jr delivered a roaring hit with this pea-brained potboiler about a gangster  on the run. The film’s USP was its various foreign locations and elements  of glamour so far missing from NTR Jr's crowd-pulling grammar. NTR Jr featured in a double role in this slick flick. One of the characters was named N. T. Rama Rao after his legendary father. Srinu Vaitla directed the  film which was  originally titled Mafia then Action. Both titles were rejected as too dark and aggressive for NTR Jr fans.

Jai Lava Kusa (2017) 

The biggest of Bollywood superstars have failed in triple  roles:  Dilip  Kumar in Bairaag, Amitabh Bachchan in Mahaan, and much lower down the scale, Saif Ali Khan in the execrable Humshakals. Telugu cinema has its own more-the-merrier fan ideology  for superstars. NTR Jr was a roaring hit in three roles in this K. S. Ravindra masala dosa where the  superstar played the three title roles leaving not even breathing space for  other actors. But who cared! As long as NTR Jr kept the proceedings perked  up, three times over.

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