Popular plays were staged to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Surabhi.

Surabhi that popularised Telugu theatre world is celebrating its 125th anniversary. It celebrated its iconic status by holding an eight-day drama festival at the Lalitha Kala Thoranam premises. The festival was inaugurated by matinee idol Akkineni Nageswara Rao in the presence of former Chief Minister K. Rosaiah, the chief guest at that function. On each of these days the legendary artistes of Surabhi theatre were felicitated. Most of them are veterans now. The plays staged were Maya Bazar, Srikrishna Leelalu, Jai Patala Bhairavi, Bhakta Prahlada, and Srinivasa Kalyanam.

Three of them were repeated on other days. Only five Surabhi troupes are left now, out of 40 troupes which toured the State in the past. One may notice that all these plays found film versions in early days of Telugu cinema.

Bhakta Prahlada is a popular theme. The play kept all the scenes of the original text intact, starting from the scene showing Jaya and Vijaya, posted at the door of Vaikuntham of Mahavishnu to watch over visitors arriving there to meet the God. A sage is not allowed by them and become victims of his curse to be born as Rakshasas.

Vishnu explains that they had to reborn as ‘brothers' and finally get moksha (salvation) after He (Vishnu) in these incarnations kills them.

They are born in this theme of Bhakta Prahlada, as brothers Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakasipa. As the former is killed by Vishnu to save Vedas stolen by him and the earth, Hiranyakasipa becomes his enemy.

Prahlada is Hiranyakasipa's son, but a staunch Vishnu bhakta. The demon king Hiranyakasipa tries his best, even by adopting cruel methods to retrieve the boy from Vishnu's devotion. One day he asks his son ‘Where is Vishnu?' ‘The lord is everywhere' is the boy's reply. The demon king points out at a pillar in the royal hall and asks the boy ‘is he there,'? ‘Yes' says the lad. The senior uses his club to bang the pillar. There emerges out of it ‘Narasimha'- half man and half lion and takes the demon king on to his thighs and tears apart his abdomen.

The greatest attraction of Surabhi play is the way they present these mysterious scenes creating their own technology.

There were a number of artistes who played roles and also looked after technical work, behind the curtains. This play had the support of nearly forty men and women all belonging to Surabhi families. R. Jayachndra Verma, Sivasankar, Niranjana Rao, Sarat, child artistes Lochana, Bhanuja and Lavanya (playing Prahlada in different ages), Guruprasad, Upender, V. Satyanarayana, Saisantoshi, Charvani, V. Shamsunder, Rajeswari, Rammohan and many more in different roles. Verse and song rendition was apt and meaningful.

Keywords: Telugu theatre