N T Rama Rao was born on 28 May 1923 in Nimmakuru, a small village in Gudivada Taluk of Krishna District in erstwhile Madras Presidency of British India.
He was born to a farming couple, Nandamuri Lakshmaih and Venkata Ramamma. His parents gave him to paternal uncle for adoption.
He attended school at first in his village, and later in Vijayawada. After his matriculation in 1940, he studied at SRR & CVR college in Vijayawada and at the Andhra-Christian College in Guntur.
In May 1943, at the age of 20, N T Rama Rao married Basava Tarakam, the daughter of his maternal uncle. The couple had eight sons and four daughters.
In 1947, he joined the Madras Service Commission as a sub-registrar at Prathipadu of Guntur District. A much-coveted job that he nevertheless quit within three weeks to devote himself to acting.
NTR Acting Career
Soon N T Rama Rao started his film career with a walk-on role as a policeman in Mana Desam (1949). His first mythological film was in 1957, where he portrayed Krishna in the blockbuster film Maya Bazaar.
At the age of 40, he learnt dance from the renowned Kuchipudi dancer Vempati Chinna Satyam for his role in the film Nartanasala (1963).
Later in his career, he stopped playing the role of a prince in his commercial films and began to play roles of a poor yet heroic young man fighting against the existing system. These films appealed to the sentiments of the common man.
In the later half of his career, N T Rama Rao became a screenwriter. Despite having no formal training in script writing, he authored several screenplays for his own movies as well as for other producers.
He was influential in designing and implementing a financial system that funded the production and distribution of movies.
NTR was very dedicated to his profession. He would often learn new things in order to portray a particular character on-screen perfectly and realistically.
N T Rama Rao started Telugu Desam Party (TDP) on 29 March 1982 in Hyderabad. He said that this decision was based on a historic need to rid Andhra Pradesh of the corrupt and inept rule of the Indian National Congress.
Congress had governed the state since its formation in 1956. Congress leadership had changed the Chief Minister five times in five years.
First term as Chief Minister, 1983
In the elections, the TDP allied with the Sanjaya Vichara Manch party. N T Rama Rao decided to field educated candidates who had a good name in the society and were not indulging in corruption. This was an innovative political concept at the time.
NTR travelled across the state of Andhra Pradesh, crisscrossing all the districts. N T Rama Rao notched up over 75,000 kilometres during his campaign, a distinctive sight with the van’s yellow party flags and banners and N T Rama Rao sitting on top of the vehicle hailing the crowds
In the elections, the TDP won by an absolute majority, winning 199 out of the 294 seats in the state assembly. N T Rama Rao was sworn in as the 10th and the first non-Congress Chief Minister of the state on 9 January 1983 with ten cabinet ministers and five ministers of State.
N T Rama Rao’s administrations were marked by a number of populist initiatives that included clothing subsidies and food and housing for people below the poverty line.
Later he initiated a midday-meal program for schoolchildren and banned the sale of alcohol in the state.
Loss of Power, 1984
On 15 August 1984, NTR was removed from office by the then Governor of Andhra Pradesh Ramlal while he was in the USA to undergo open heart surgery.
His finance minister, Nadendla Bhaskara Rao, a former Congressman who joined the TDP during its inception. Governor Ramlal made Nadendla Bhaskara Rao the Chief Minister.
Return to Power, 1984
Soon N T Rama Rao returned to India immediately after his surgery, disputed the claims by Bhaskara Rao. He demonstrated his strength by bringing all the MLAs supporting him, which was a majority in the 294 member assembly, to the Raj Bhavan (Governor’s Office). Ramlal did not relent.
Due to mobilization of several political parties and the people and due to press, the Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi, unwillingly removed Governor Ramlal and appointed a Congress veteran, Shankar Dayal Sharma.
Shankar Dayal Sharma removed Bhaskara Rao from power. He restored N T Rama Rao as the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh in September 1984.
During this time his first wife Basavatarakam died of cancer.
Second term as Chief Minister, 1985
Soon N T Rama Rao recommended dissolution of the Assembly and called for fresh elections the following year in the state. He wanted to ensure that the people had a fresh choice to elect their representatives.
The TDP again won with a massive majority in those elections. Thus marking the beginning of his second term as Chief Minister.
In the December 1989 assembly elections however, people voted him out of power due to a wave of anti-incumbency sweeping the state as a result of which the Congress returned to power.
During this time, he suffered a mild stroke. As a result of which he was unable to campaign, which was the reason for the TDP’s loss.
In 1993, N T Rama Rao married Lakshmi Parvathi, a Telugu writer. She was the author of his 2-volume biography of NTR.
Third term as Chief Minister, 1994
Soon N T Rama Rao returned to power for a third and final time in the December 1994 state assembly elections with his party in alliance with the Left Front.
This alliance won 250 seats in the 294 seat Assembly, with the TDP alone winning 226.
On 23 August 1995, his son-in-law, Nara Chandrababu Naidu removed him as Chief Minister and as the president of the TDP. He engineered an internal party coup against him and took over the offices.
Naidu claimed that the reason for overthrowing N T Rama Rao was that the latter was planning to hand over the reins of the party to his second wife Lakshmi Parvathi. He felt that the party was in danger of disintegrating under her rule.
In an emotional interview after the coup, N T Rama Rao called the coup a planned treachery and lambasted Naidu for being power-hungry and untrustworthy.
N T Rama Rao died of a heart attack on 18 January 1996 at his residence in Hyderabad, aged 72. He was cremated and his ashes were immersed at Srirangapatna by his second wife eight years later, in 2004