Andhra Pradesh

COVID-19 pandemic draws the curtains on ‘Padya Natakam’

Padya Natakam artiste K. Subba Rao singing padyam in his house at Podili in Prakasam district.  

Kona Subba Rao would get into the character on stage as people would watch the ‘Kurukshetram’, a mythological play, with rapt attention. The audience would shout, urging the 57-year ‘Padya Natakam’ exponent from Podili to repeat the long-winding ‘padyam’ and the latter would oblige with pleasure.

“Well, it seems a thing of past now,” says Mr. Subba Rao. The coronavirus pandemic has drawn the curtains on the traditional Telugu theatre performances, thanks to curbs in place to contain the spread of the virus. “It is not just me. Thousands of padyam artistes in the State are now clueless as to how to eke out a living with dignity,” laments Mr. Subba Rao who now sells betel leaves at Podili in Prakasam district.

Hey days

“We have seen better days. No Tirunalu in villages would end without our plays. The annual temple festivals now are few and far between. Even if they are organised, we are not allowed to perform,” he says during a conversation with The Hindu, after singing a long-winding padyam while playing his harmonium.

The last performance of Mr. Subba Rao was in March 2020 before the first wave of COVID-19 set in. Lack of work and funds crunch have made it difficult for him to take care of his family. He recalled how he had trained hundreds of artistes in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana during the long innings in his vocation.

Also read: Decorated artist lives in penury

“We used to perform among other plays ‘Satya Harischandra’ and ‘Bama Rukmini Kalyanam’ that would start late in the night and continue till the wee hours. The crowd used to stay put and encourage them to perform again and again,” he reminisces. The woes of Chimakurthy Nageswara Rao and other thespians are no different. They are hoping against hope that the State government will allow the theatre performances again. “The number of coronavirus infections are going down. If the cinema halls can run, why not theatres? We are clueless about the rationale behind continuing the curbs on Telugu theatres,” says Mr. Nageswara Rao.

ex gratia sought

“We have exhausted whatever little savings at our disposal long back. None is ready to advance loans to us. Many of us do odd jobs. Some of us even resort to begging. Many artistes have sold their harmoniums to run their families. We are ready to perform in strict adherence to the safety norms,” he says.

The artistes urge the State government to pay them at least ₹10,000 per month as ex gratia.


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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 6:43:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/covid-19-pandemic-draws-the-curtains-on-padya-natakam/article37065654.ece

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