The centenary celebrations of Kakinada-based theatre troupe, Young Men’s Happy Club, which has for long provided a platform for artistes and technicians (who later proved their mettle on the silver screen), were held on a grand scale at Dantu Kala Kshetram, an exclusive state of the art auditorium for theatrical performances. “The history of this theatre troupe reflects the history of Telugu theatre. Very few theatre troupes have survived for a long period and this club is foremost among those few,” observed Gollapudi Maruthi Rao, playwright-turned-film actor, while convening a seminar on the evolution of the troupe. Veteran artistes Anjali Devi, Relangi Venkatramaiah, S.V. Ranga Rao and Suryakantham had donned the grease paint here first, while music directors Adinarayana Rao and Chellapilla Satyam began their careers by setting tunes for the plays produced by the troupe. “Even I had donned the heroine’s role in the club’s play ‘Only Daughter’,” recalled 96-year-old artiste and film producer C. Krishnaveni ( Keelugurram film fame), who had the privilege of introducing stalwarts like NTR and SVR to the silver screen. The club presented ‘Centenary Award’ to Krishnaveni and veteran theatre artiste Burra Subrahmanya Sastry.
“This is the first club in Andhra Pradesh to have its own theatre. The artistes and technicians adapted to the changes in theatre and performed plays that would attract audience of the times. Interestingly they never compromised on certain values,” observed Modali Nagabhushana Sarma, former professor in theatre arts, University of Hyderabad.
“There were daily rehearsals those days and the theatres resorted to caning in case of indiscipline. We learnt acting by attending classes daily,” recalled septuagenarian artistes G. Ratna Kumari and Badam Subbalakshmi, who were felicitated. The theatre troupe’s history will be published. “Future generations should know the legacy of the Telugu theatre and the history of this club can give details,” said deputy speaker of the AP Legislative Assembly Mandali Budha Prasad. “We are celebrating the centenary from December to April, ” shared president of the club Dantu Surya Rao said with pride.