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Celebrating Telugu culture

Gudipoodi Srihari
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Theatre Sishtla Chandrasekhar’s play Chengalva Poodanda that was staged on the occasion of Telugu Theatre Day was a fitting tribute to the industry Gudipoodi Srihari

‘M aa Telugu Talliki Mallepoodanda ’, a song written by Sankarambadi Sundarachari ages ago, is so popular that it syncs perfectly with Telugu culture and history and even went on to become an anthem. But this play, written by Sishtla Chandrasekhar, dealing with the Telugu language is titled Chengalva Poodanda bearing no relevance to the drama. It would have been better if it was replaced with the word ‘Mallepoodanda’ used by Sankarambadi in his song, to stir the same emotion. However, the play succeeds in exemplifying the work done by a foreigner C.P. Brown, who even composed a Telugu to English dictionary, researched Vemana and translated his verses into English and also that of poets Sri Sri, Dasarathi and Srikrishna Devaraya. The play was staged at Ravindra Bharati recently to mark Telugu Theatre Day.

Curiously the play opened showing a girl Lavanya being taken to task for not calling her mother ‘Mummy’ and father ‘Daddy’, for, the parents run an English medium school. However, Lavanya’s grandfather, a Telugu pundit, questions the couple his son and daughter-in-law for forcing Lavanya to speak only in English. He wants to retain their culture and language in the house. “Our cultural history is a repository for our most deeply held emotions,” argues the old man. Lavanya follows in her grandfather’s footsteps. The tension simmers to a point where the couple replaces Telugu books in the house with English books.

The play then incorporates a bit of drama woven around C.P. Brown and others staged on one side under mellowed light. The play ends with the school’s anniversary function, where a minister invited to present awards in Telugu essay writing competitions; declares Lavanya the winner for not using a single English word in her essay. But Lavanya passes this credit to her grandfather who taught her Telugu.

The young recruit Indira as Lavanya, Rajakumar as protagonist of Telugu language and Venkat Govada and Surabhi Prabhavati playing the English crazy young couple performed their roles with enthusiasm. The play was also interspersed with some songs and verses that were well sung by Venu Sukumar in the Ghantasala tenor.

Though brief, the strong characterisation came from Sivakumar as the minister and Basha as C.P. Brown, who championed the cause of Telugu literature. The play deals with a generation divide and breathes new life into some neglected memories of our past.

Srikala Nikethan also felicitated veteran actor, director and playwright S.K. Misro of Visakhapatnam along with his wife Sachaladevi.


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