NT Rama Rao: Neighborhood Star
NT Rama Rao, the former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and last year’s Telugu super star, was our distinguished neighbor when I was a student at Ramakrishna Mission School on Bazullah Road, Chennai, half a century ago. The people of Andhra Pradesh simply adored him. He had as many fans in Andhra as MGR had in Tamil Nadu. They considered him an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He was their Ram and he was their Krishna. As early as 7 a.m., buses full of people from different parts of the state arrived on Bazullah Road to get his ‘darshan‘.
A majority of these people, of all ages and genders, came with a shaved head. They wanted a darshan of their Lord Ram – NTR – on the way back, after visiting Tirumala in Tirupati. They waited for hours outside the gates of his house. RNT darshan it was about 2 o’clock in the afternoon. It was moving to see these simple people crouching on the sidewalks – rain or shine – waiting to catch a glimpse of their hero.
RNT werewolf, dressed in a colorful outfit, an angelic smile glued to his lips, materialized on the threshold. Exactly at this time, the guard opened the doors.
The waiting crowd surged through the house chanting aloud ‘Devuda‘. The darshan, for which people waited more than six hours, would only last a few minutes, much shorter than the ‘darshan‘ by Lord Balaji who is famous for his brevity.
After blessing the devout fans in his typical style with a raised right palm, he would turn around and slip into a side piece. That was it. Security personnel then pushed the bewitched crowd of “devotees” out of the bungalow doors.
I was a fan too. His quiet face was ideal for the mythological roles for which he was famous. It was like it came straight from the pages of my favorite children’s magazine Chandamama.
My grandmother, who never missed an NTR movie, wanted to see it. And I made his wish come true during one of his visits to Madras from our home town of Kanchipuram.
I remember NTR as a gracious host. We, a group of middle-class teenagers, went to his house once to collect donations for a sports club. He received us well and offered us rose milk. The taste still lingers. He liked the color pink. His building was painted pink; her face was still powdered pink and her Plymouth was pink too.
When I returned to the 90s to visit my school, I found the house in a state of total neglect. I could barely recognize him.