Telangana artists paint on a scroll to celebrate the unsung heroes of the freedom struggle

The works will be displayed at Open Gallery at Rajpath in New Delhi on Republic Day

January 25, 2022 06:57 pm | Updated 06:57 pm IST

On January 26 when India celebrates its 73rd Republic Day, a gigantic, 750-metre scroll will adorn the open gallery at Rajpath, New Delhi. As part of Kala Kumbh - Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, the scroll filled with drawings and figurative narratives by 500 artistes from across India, including a team of eight artists from Telangana, is an artistic tribute to the unsung heroes of the freedom struggle. The Telangana artists include: Kandi Narsimulu, G Pramod Reddy, Gunram Mallesham, Mahesh Pottabathini, Naresh Kumar Pallati, Annarapu Narender and J Venkateshwarlu.

Team of artists

Team of artists

This team has painted 75 meters in the scroll depicting Telangana’s freedom fighters who used art and literature to inspire people during the Freedom movement. “We were also asked to paint themes highlighting Telangana’s culture, its people and monuments,” says Mahesh. “The compositions are different, but with the sky as a common element across 75 metres, the works feel like a continuous unit.”

How it started

Organised by National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, the scroll was painted earlier during an art camp conducted at Chitkara University campus in Chandigarh in December 2021.

Retired art teacher Naresh Kumar Pallati recreates September 17, 1948 when Hyderabad State integrated into India. The work shows a battle tank entering the city with a family on a rickshaw. Nizam VII Mir Osmal Ali Khan of Hyderabad welcomes the then Home minister Sardar Vallabhai Patel, against the backdrop of the Indian flag and Charminar.

Naresh explains, “I had heard many tales of Nizam’s generosity from my grandfather. While it is a fact that Nizam took time to surrender Hyderabad, it was due to Kasim Razwi, his Sipah Salar ( military commander). Nizam’s good intent shows when he helped during the Indo-China war.”

Ode to women warriors

Mahesh Pottabathini created the portrait of Arutla Kamala Devi, the activist of the Telangana Armed Rebellion. “She and her partner created a guerilla force to fight against the Razakars . Her story is fascinating. It is a show of strength for women in combat as there is also a painting of Mallu Swarjyam, who was considered the iron lady of the Telangana armed struggle. We rarely talk about the women leading the march in combat during the freedom struggle. We feel proud to have painted these legendary women and brought them into focus.”

Telangana’s icons

This platform is a great opportunity to display our works in front of such a large audience,” shares J Venkateshwarlu. The artist painted the historical arch Kakateeya thoranam, and Telangana’s symbols such as Jinka (deer), jammi chettu ( Prosopis cineraria), tangedu puvvu (dandelion) and pala pitta (Indian Roller bird) reflecting the state’s culture and tradition. “Painting on such a gigantic scroll was a new experience for the artists. We used to first sketch and then fill acrylic waterproof colours in it,” he adds.

Inspiring poets

The song Palleturi pillagaada, paalu taage jeeta gada by noted poet Suddala Hanmanthu has been artist Gunram Mallesham’s iconic freedom song. “Even now the song gives me goosebumps; I have been hearing this song since my childhood and am glad I got an opportunity to paint the person who wrote such stirring lyrics” he says. His portrait of Suddala celebrates the poet’s writings that gave voice to the voiceless. “Suddala was a seasoned writer, poet and burra katha artiste. He resigned his job as a school teacher to inspire people through poetry and raise a voice against oppression. ”

Poets in focus

Artists paint Dasarathi Krishnamacharya and Kaloji Narayana Rao.

Artists paint Dasarathi Krishnamacharya and Kaloji Narayana Rao.

Artist Shiva Kumar Gadiga painted poet Dasarathi Krishnamacharya and poet-activist Kaloji Narayana Rao. He recollected his college days in Warangal when he had read poems of the duo. “Most poets are unsung heroes of freedom struggle as they work behind the scenes inspiring people through their writings. These remarkable personalities have to be celebrated,” says Shiva, whose themes include political and personal issues inspired by his natural surroundings.

“This was the first time that I painted a freedom fighter,” says Pramod Reddy, who painted revolutionary tribal leader Komaram Bheem. “I tried to understand his personality through books and his fiery speeches,”

Pramod also painted Tholubommalata, a shadow puppet theatre tradition of the erstwhile combined state of Andhra Pradesh and a work on Lord Rama and Hanuman. “The role of mythology is significant in motivating people,” says the artist who mostly does mythological works. Pramod continues, “It was fascinating to see eight artistes with different painting styles come together on one platform.

Folk festival in focus

Annarapu Narender, who usually paints three-dimensional figures, painted Bonalu, the traditional folk festival of Telangana. The artist also worked with NCC students by sketching Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose which the students filled with colours. “The camp felt like home. Although we were meeting the artists for the first time, it felt like we were meeting our relatives in a new place. The cultural activities held at night gave us so many nice memories,” says Narender.

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