Ram Gopal Varma possibly is different personalities rolled into one. He is an unapologetic individual, unpredictable filmmaker and a master marketeer. It is only fitting then that one assesses his work through different lenses.
Ram Gopal Varma's latest offering, Lakshmi’s NTR, which he co-directed with Agasthya Manju and co-wrote with Narendra Chary, is a semi-biopic of actor-turned-politician and former chief minister late NT Rama Rao (NTR). The movie had attracted a fair share of controversies even before the release as the film sought to capture the lowest phase of NTR’s life and show real life characters and incidents in an unfiltered way.
With elections around the corner, the movie is in the eye of a storm as the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) is trying its best to halt its release as it is related to its founder. Except in Andhra Pradesh (a court order banned the movie till elections), the movie had a theatrical release In Telangana and overseas. The movie needs to be reviewed in two ways—purely in terms of cinematic experience and as a real life drama.
One way of watching Lakshmi’s NTR is by leaving aside the biases and prejudices, which is difficult under the politically charged atmosphere. The movie can be broadly categorised under emotional political drama. It begins with NTR leading a lonely life in his bungalow. After losing power and getting replaced as chief minister, NTR (played by P. Vijay Kumar) has retired to be a gloomy and weak person. Enters Lakshmi Parvati, a stranger and a teacher, who wants to write a book on the life history of the actor. A self-confessed devotee of NTR, she gets closer to him even though she is married with a child. How he gets emotionally attached to her and seeks her out is explained through some intense scenes.
However, from day one, though NTR is a widower, his family vehemently opposes her presence in his life, to the extent of abusing her. The first half is all about how she sticks to him despite all odds. Though the first half is a bit dragging, the second half makes up for it. The sons and daughters of NTR are under the influence of his son-in-law, Babu, who conspires to malign her in different ways. NTR wins the next elections with Lakshmi Parvati by his side and from there, the family feud gets worse. Since there is a constant fear that Lakshmi can take control of the party and call shots, party leaders, led by Babu, conspire to isolate NTR and his wife. The various twists and political moves planned by Babu keeps the audience hooked.
Simply put, this is the story of an innocent woman who is the victim of ruthless family politics.
The best performances were by the trio, Yagna Shetty as Lakshmi Parvathi, P. Vijay Kumar as NTR and Shritej as Babu.
The production values are average. The outdoor scenes of election campaign and public meeting could have been shot better. The emotional scenes stand out, especially the last sequence. The music is nothing to rave about, and background score feels outdated and sub-standard.
Watching Lakshmi’s NTR can be a revelation of sorts, for those who believe Ram Gopal Varma narrated a true story without compromising on facts. Keeping in mind the legal hassles, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has been renamed Mana Desam Party and a chief minister has been named just Babu.
Similarly, all the names of political leaders and actors who appear on screen and who are connected to NTR are slightly changed. In RGV’s own style, actor and MLA Balakrishna, son of NTR is trolled even before the movie starts. In the credits, Nanadamuri Balarishna is thanked. Why? Because it was Balakrishna who first pitched the idea of a biopic on NTR’s life to Varma. The movie begins where director Krish’s NTR Mahanayakudu ends. RGV had clarity regarding the protagonist and antagonist of his movie even before the movie went on floors. Lakshmi Parvathi is the hero and Chandrababu Naidu is the villain since the movie is seen from the former’s perspective. Some of the interesting aspects of NTR’s life which was not well-known was shown and the credit should entirely go to RGV.
For those youngsters who missed out on important parts of the political history of the state, this can be a quick refresher if they truly trust RGV. And for those who believed what was fed to them by top media outlets at that time, get ready to be shocked and disillusioned by how a fake narrative was built. Most importantly, it will be a mind-tripping experience for those who want to understand Chandrababu, the politician.
Movie: Lakshmi’s NTR
Directed by: Ram Gopal Varma
Starring: Yagna Shetty, P. Vijay Kumar, Shritej