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A patron connoisseur

C.S.N. Raju -- Photo: K.R. Deepak

If there is a name to reckon with among the widely popular in cultural circles all over in general and the State in particular, it is Chintapalli Satya Narayana Raju, the founder-president of the well-known Visakha Music and Dance Academy and the more recent but equally popular Thyagaraja Aradhana Trust. While his admirers consider that the initials C, S and N connote Comely Comity and Sober Noblesse in Raju, the lovers and connoisseurs of fine arts opine that C stands for conviction, S for stupendous zeal and N for noteworthy ardour serving the cause of all categories of dance, drama and music.

The epitome of an endowment of commendable elan both in planning and execution, all through his meritorious professional career, either as a lecturer in commerce at Dr. V.S. Krishna College and in Andhra University or later an executive at Rourkela and Durgapur Steel Plants, BHPV and finally General Manager (materials management) in Visakhapatnam Steel Plant from 1975 till superannuation in 1992 and adviser for a couple of years thereafter, Raju enjoyed the privilege of being chosen to be in the lead organising social get togethers, sports and games, recreational clubs and most importantly cultural programmes, including art and rangoli shows. Not only that, he was instrumental in shaping permanent venues with the necessary infrastructure differently for all such activities, including the religious firmament with temple, church and mosque complexes. In the 1980s, when the city elite started contemplating on bringing out a centrally located auditorium worth its name, Raju was chosen to head the committee constituted for the purpose. At a time, when all the efforts of the committee for securing a suitable site went in vain, the Thyagaraja Nilayam Trust, passionately founded by late Susarla Surya Bhagavath Sastry, went almost bankrupt after starting the construction of a small hall suitable for only devotional and classical music recitals on the site in Pithapuram Colony. Raju was persuaded to step in by Sastry and his comrades on one hand and committee members on the other to work out the possibility of a full-fledged auditorium coming up at the site. The result was, the emergence of the VMDA Charitable Trust with Raju its president. It was registered in 1986. Raju's enormous goodwill with the corporate sector on one hand and the munificent rich in the city on the other enabled him to collect single-handedly the lion's share of the funds which amounted to more than a crore. Soon plans were drawn for an air-conditioned auditorium with all the needed infrastructure. With a missionary zeal, he pursued the matter to its logical end with AURO Services, Pondicherry, Larson and Tubro and Voltas, and saw to it that this long cherished dream of Vizagities came true in the form of the majestic 1,000-seater Kalabharati Auditorium. Though it started functioning on a trial basis in August 1990 with a Kuchipudi recital by the great grandchildren of the late Sastry, it was formerly inaugurated by the then AP Governor, Krishan Kant, on the May 11, 1991. The 'melody queen' of the country, M.S. Subbulakshmi, auspiciously rendered the inaugural concert. Born on June 20, 1934, at Bhimavaram, Raju's academic and professional achievements radiantly reflect the rich rural tradition and custom of keeping up righteousness and taste for the elysian culture handed down the ages. Construction of the Thyagaraja Mandiram with a beautiful idol in marble of the non pareil Vaggeyakara in it; establishment of a music and dance school with a library and art gallery in the premises of Kalabharati; institution of awards for the young and upcoming artistes; pension for old artistes; conferring the annual `Nadavidyabharati' title with a cash award of Rs.1 lakh on an internationally reputed musician under the banner of VMDA; conducting the annual five-day fete of Thyagaraja Aradhana, besides the jayanthi and the vardhanti of Muthuswami Dikshitar, Shyama Sastry, Purandharadasa, Ramadas, Annamayya and others under the aegis of Thyagaraja Aradhana Trust; and the founding of another institution, Chintapalli Suryanarayana Raju and Subbayamma Charitable Trust at Bhimavaram stand ample testimony to his possessed love for the age-old culture which ensigns the national charater.His services as the chairman of the Maharaja Public Charitable Trsut and vice-chairman of the local chapter of the Bharatiya Vidya Kendram are also laudable. Kalabharati, with its wonderful acoustics and more impartantly its being within reach for many an association, has come a long way to stand acclaimed as one of the best in the country and the most popular rendezvous of culture, despite the existence of more elaborate auditoria like VPT's Kalavani, Sambamurthy Kalamandiram, VUDA's Gurazada Kalakshetram and Children's Theatre, AU's Ambedkar Assembly Hall and K.V. Gopalaswamy Open-Air Theatre and so on. It stands as a monumental contribution indeed, enhancing the glory of the city's cultural firmament indeed by the winner of a many laurel like the Vijayasri award etc. Raju is happily settled in Vizag with his wife Kamala out of his soulful love for the City of Destiny.


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