The Telugu audience woke up to quite a shock on Wednesday morning, with the passing away of Nandamuri Harikrishna in a fatal accident. The actor turned politician, known as the fourth son of the legendary Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao passed away at 61. His sons - step brothers Kalyan Ram and Jr.NTR - are leading stars in the Telugu film industry.
Harikrishna was not your charming, tall dark and handsome actor like many of his peers. The actor was first known as a child artist and later crafted an image for himself as a mass and family drama man, during the 2000s. Most of his stints as a child artist was alongside his father NTR and under the family banner - Ramakrishna Cine Studios. His screen presence that runs in his blood, all began with Shri Krishnavataram where he played little Krishna and he went on to movies like Tatamma Kala alongside his brother Balakrishna as well.
In a career spanning just 13 films, Harikrishna's blockbuster till date, remains - Daana Veera Soora Karna. While the '70s film is popularly remembered for NTR's versatility and triple role as Karna, Duryodhana and Krishna, it was also Harikrishna's most succesful Telugu drama yet, with him taking over as Arjuna alongside his brother Balakrishna as Abhimanyu. Though the two featured in Ram Raheem prior to this, it was the later that put them in the spotlight.
Ask anyone from the '60s about Harikrishna's short cinema stint and most Telugu natives will remember that one cult film he aced with his family roots intact. This film still remains one of the most successful epics in Telugu cinema, with a collection of over 2 crores during those days and several re-releases. And with Daana Veera Soora Karna, Harikrishna had become a part of history. Imagine, this '90s kid has watched Daana Veera Soora Karna - that's how much the film was raved about over the next many years.
The actor took a really long break from films post this hit and returned to cinema only in the late '90s. After movies like Seetharama Raju with Nagarjuna, Seetayya and Lahiri Lahiri Lahirilo, Hairkrishna was quite not in the league any more. But even at a time when he was written off for his over dramatic roles, the actor had won the Nandi Award for his character in the musical Lahiri Lahiri Lahirilo. The actor had played Krishnama Naidu, the humble big brother of the family headed by K Viswanath. The MM Keeravani musical was known to be the best album of 2002, with not one but several evergreen singers like Udit Narayan, K.S Chitra, Sonu Nigam, P. UnniKrishnan and others presenting a hit album. The film was known for being an ensemble of artists with Harikrishna leading the pack.
Then came Seetayya in 2003 and that's how Harikrishna became 'Oka Magaadu'. Simran lusting after 'Oka Magaadu' in this film, was all the talk of the town. The song featuring Simran and Harikrishna only in flashes, had become a rage of a different kind. But one couldn't disagree that age was definitely catching up with the actor by the time Seetayya hit screens, and yet he created a sort of curiosity. While many Nandamuri family fans enjoyed the film, the rest of the audience walked out finding it way too dramatic. His brother Balakrishna went on to do several such films while Harikrishna had a penchant for family dramas.
The audience flocked to the theaters making Seetayya box office success, but it was definitely a no from the critics. Lesser known films followed and with his sons - Jr.NTR and Kalyan Ram taking over in the 2000s, the actor swiftly moved into political activities, for the Telugu Desam Party.
Today, as Andhra mourns the loss of Harikrishna, it is not a surprise that most news channels, especially Telugu, remember him as a hardworking politician first and actor next. With Harikrishna, it is understood that there is no keeping the Nandamuri family out of cinema and politics.
His unexpected passing marks a huge loss among his generation of leaders. Harikrishna had also been in the news a little over 4 years ago, when he lost his third son Nandamuri Janakiram to a fatal road accident. Often compared to his father for being there for the people, Harikrishna in the past decade after closing his chapter as an actor, came to be known as a remarkable humanitarian. As many political peers and Telugu industry members have said, he has gone too soon.