The Telugu World Column No: 28

Telugu Has Many Writers, Artists

Bhandaaru Achhamamba who studied Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati and English besides Telugu in an age where the women’s  education she campaigned for was denied to them, Dwivedula Visalakshi, Achanta Janakiram, Vamshi, Malati Chandur, Dwivedula Somanatha Sastri, Munimanikyam Narasihma Rao, Kavali Laxmi-narasingam, Janamanchi Ramakrishna, Rajamannar, Janakiram Patnailk, Turaga Janakirani, Nanduri Subba Rao, Yaddanapiudi Sulochana Rani, Balabhadrapatruni Ramani, Munimanikyam Narasihma Rao, Pothukuchi Sambashiva Rao and a Delhi scientist Mahidhara Nalinimohan, are not classical old generation writers, but neither are they young and upcoming authors. Most of them are no more.

It was thanks to the excellent translations by Nandoori Ramamohan Rao and Malati Chandur that a whole generation of Telugus got acquainted with English classics.

There are many modern writers of today who contribute to several magazines and some of them also contributed to the development of Telugu literature. The closure of the only literary magazine in Telugu, ‘Bharati’ of the Andhra Patrika group, is a sad event but its purpose and role are being fulfilled by digital magazines like ‘Sanchika’. A website on Telugu literature, Dasubhashitam.com and a platform for up and coming Telugu writers to post new works and reach millions of readers, Pratilipi.com are a must for those interested in reading or writing in Telugu. 

Decades ago a Telugu magazine ‘Pravasi’ was being published from Jamshedpur (now Jharkhand, then Bihar) by Vajjhala Kalidasu, himself an eminent writer. It published the works of many Telugu writers settled outside Andhra, including my father B.Purnayya (who wrote only poetry and had translated Adi Shankara’s classic Soundarya Lahari). On several fora I have been suggesting the revival of the magazine, at least in digital form. For those settled in other linguistic region and cannot read Telugu, it may also carry transliteration of Telugu writings in English/Hindi script and campaign for teaching them to read Telugu.

Creativity is not the monopoly of any linguistic community and the Telugus are no exception. Indian languages have rich literature and the multiplicity of languages in India, the major handicap facing this country, can become an asset if there is wide translation of the best writing of one language into others and appreciation of each other’s best talents.

These talents are not limited to writing alone. As have others, the Telugus too have many other artists in painting, music or acting. Some of them are known all over the country and many, thanks to the Telugu trait of looking down on their own, remain unknown. Kerala has elevated Ravi Verma to the   level of an icon nationally, which he certainly was, but our own Damerla Rama Rao has almost been ignored. (As I stated earlier, a museum in his name at Rajamahendravaram is ill-maintained and mostly closed. Kumbh Mela is a national phenomenon.  MP government recently made special arrangements and elevated the Narmada Pushkaram to the next level. But my efforts to make the Godavari Pushkaralu at Rajamahendravaram the Kumbh Mela of the South failed because no Andhra newspaper was interested.)

Damerla is not alone.  Sattiraju Lakshminarayana, better known as ‘Bapu’ (1933-2014) was excellent and so popular that a beautiful girl is called ‘as pretty as a Bapu picture’. He also earned a name as a film director. Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University in Hyderabad has an art degree course and there must be several art schools in the two states. Nirmal paintings of Telangana have a distinct style. Laxman Aelay, Aziz artist. Khaleel Aziz, Laxma Goud, Nandini Goud, Srilamanthula Chandramohan, Jonnalagadda Gurappa Chetty, Kattingeri Krishna Hebbar, E.Kumaril Swamy, Jayanth Manda, Vaddadi Papaiah, Bairu Raghuram, P. Solomon Raj and Kapu Rajaiah, Siramdasu Venkata Rama Rao, Pakhal Tirumal Reddy and Pannuru Sripathy are listed as the other known artists. The eminent writer Adivi Baapiraju was also a good artist.

Other creative fields like music and dance also had many Telugu exponents. Kuchipudi is a distinctive dance form of the Telugu people and has great masters like Vempati Chinna Satyam. When it was almost dying out, Mrinialini Sarabhai, the Malayali wife of a great Gujarati scientist Vikram Sarabahai, started a Kuchipudi Academy in Ahmedabad in the ‘60s to revive it. One of the eight top Indian classical dances, Kuchipudi started in a village of the same name in West Godavari district, AP. It is said Tirtha Narayana Yati an Advaita sect sanyasi (ascetic) and his disciple Siddhendra Yogi, started Kuchipudi, as known today, in the 17th century. Manju Bhargavi, Deepa Sashindran, Katyayani Ganti and D.V.S. Sastry are its main teachers. The Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Among Youth (SPICMACAY) is promoting it through an exponent, T. Reddy.

Mungara Yamini ‘Poornatilaka’ Krishnamurthy, popular as Yamini Krishnamurthy is a renowned Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam dancer. Almost 80 years old, she is a renowned Kuchipudi and Bharatnatyam dancer awarded Padma Vibhushan (2016). The most important role in getting national recognition for Kuchipudi is played by the dancing couple, Raja and Radha Reddy, gurus, performers and choreographers. 

In the field of Carnatic classical music though popular mostly in Tamil Nadu, the most important name is of a Telugu, Thyagaraja, called the Brahma (creator) of Carnatic music who wrote kritis only in Telugu. The second most important name is also of a Telugu man, Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna of Chennai mentioned earlier. Another prominent vocalist is Mahamahopadhyaya Dr. Nookala Chinna Satyanarayana (1923–2013) Not only a classical singer but also a musicologist, author and teacher and administrator he was an All India Radio and Doordarshan artiste who often participated in Sangeeta Sammelans, outdoor broadcasts and national programmes. His radio lessons were very popular. He was awarded Padma Bhushan in 2010.


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