Celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Gurajada Apparao, Rajam-based literary forum Velugu featured Gurajada’s magnum opus Kanyasulkam at Kalabharati, Visakhapatnam. Staged by artistes of Vizianagaram-based theatre forum Navayuva, the eight-hour marathon session evoked overwhelming response. Never has any play witnessed such a huge turnout of audience in the city and audiences were found standing in the aisles to see the play all through from 2pm to 11pm. In a bid not to disappoint the gathering, the organizers arranged an LCD display in the corridors of the auditorium. Unable to find even a toehold in the packed corridors, huge number of audience returned home. With a pervasive feel of festivity the celebration stood out in the true sense of the term as a great tribute to Mahakavi Gurajada.

Gurajada’s literary genius found its fullest expression in Kanyasulkam touching upon all aspects of life with a reformative zeal. Though its first performance took place in 1892; it was his second and revised rather recast version of 1909 came to stand as a classic in its own right. Earlier attempts by several theatre troupes to stage the complete play had been without much success. However, this commendable performance exploded the myth that Kanyasulkam cannot be staged in full.

Right from the opening scene ‘Sayamkalam ayindi’ to last dialogue ‘Damn it! Katha addamgaa tirigindi’ the eight-hour performance was taut on every count. It was presented in such a consummate way that it maintained its tempo, keeping theatre buffs riveted. The audience watched, in fascination and adoration for Gurajada’s legendary literary acumen as scene after scene bore out the decadent social scenario of its times in its stark reality.

Though a dose of comedy spun out of a deft blend of Telugu and English dialogues by Gireesam sparkles, it hardly conceals the wretched state of a women’s life in a decadent society. ‘Bibhatsa rasam’ remains the predominant mood of the play. Almost all the characters reveal a kind of jeevana bibhatsam in their own way.

Women pitifully trapped in the morbid social order and men bereft of head and heart come to fore as Buchamma, Meenakshi and Madhuravani; Gireesam, Ramappa Pantulu, Agnihotravadhanulu and Lubdhavadhanulu. While a string of characters at a liquor shop, in a way, represent the helpless lot of lower strata that remain at the fringes unable to do anything about the shameful ways of upper strata. All this found captivating expression in the performance.

The troupe of 42 artistes brilliantly delivered varied dimensions of given characters in their emotional contours. Jonnalagadda Sitarama Sastry as Lubdhavadhanulu was a force on stage offering up a performance that was both exceptional in histrionic prowess and perfect diction. Manibala as Madhuravani stood out,while Uday Bhagavatula donned the role of Gireesam. R Satyanarayana, B.V.S. Krishna Mohan Gandhi and Anilkumar acted as Ramappa Pantulu, Agnihotravadhanulu and Karataka Sastry respectively. Sontineni Kishore directed an able cast with a sure hand.