Period plays make a mark

Play timeScenes from ‘Nayakuralu’ (top) and ‘Sri Thyagarajar‘  

Kotla Hanumantha Rao, a faculty at the Telugu University, directed and presented the popular play ‘Nayakuralu’. Depicting the life and times of Nagamma, the play also established the hitherto unknown facts about Nagamma’s place of birth ie., Aravilli in Karimnagar district. After being born and bred in Telangana, Nagamma travelled to Palnadu in Guntur and played prominent part in the Kakatiya kingdom by becoming a minister in Nalagamaraju’s cabinet.

This play attempts to portray ‘war of Palnadu’ from Nagamma’s perspective. Hence, the play erases the slur on Nagamma, but depicts Brahmanaidu as the selfish chief who aspires to make his son Balachandrudu, the ruler. Play’s director Hanumantha Rao says a lot of research work went into production of this play to give right place to Nagamma in history. According to Poet Srinatha, Nagamma was not a villain but more people friendly.

Rohini Prasad as ‘nayakuralu’ was cynosure of all eyes and gave a powerful performance. Meka Ramakrishna played her counterpart Brahmanaidu and gave dignified performance. Jitendra as Nalagama, the king of the land, rightly kept up the indecisive mood of the character. Suresh as Alaraju, Satyanarayana as Anuguraju, Jayasri, Ajay, Mustafa, Vamsikrishna, Mohan Senapathi, Manohar, Joga Rao, Sannidhi Anthoni Raj in other roles gave a well coordinated performances. It was a memorable production.

Play on Thyagaraja

South Indian Cultural Association (SICA) hosted a play in Tamil on Thyagaraja, Sri Thyagarajar at Ravindra Bharati last week. This musical tribute was brought by T.V. Varadarajen with his United Visual Troupe, Chennai. The story is written by VSV and music score is by Bombay Jayashri. Other playback vocalists were O.S. Arun, Sethai Ranganatha Sarma, K. Balamuralikrishna, Aswath Narain, Vighnesh Eswar, Sarath, Shenbagaraj, Malavika, Abhinaya, Swetha, Sairam.

The opening scene had the presence of Rama, Lakshman, Sita and Anjaneya and the initial scenes replicate the Unchavrithi of Thyagaraja that we often see in Thyagaraja Aradhana festivals. Anjaneya enters with ‘Rama Nama’ chant and the concept of ‘Nama Sankirtnam’ was discussed. Thyagaraja’s daughter asks why he did not write any song on Sita. There were lighter moments. Taking note of this comment it was shown that Thyagaraja wrote Maa Janaki chettabattaga . The first scene was Thyagaraja moving around the village on Unchavritti, collection of rice and vegetables to feed his disciples and his family. The accompanying song was the first Pancharatna kirtana Jagadananda Karaka in Nata. It was also planned to close the play on the rendition of Endaro Mahanubhavulu in Sriragam.

Later scenes depicted the vicissitudes Thyagaraja faced in his life. T.V. Varadarajen as Thyagaraja, Rajashree Bhatt as Kamala, his wife, Seethamma as his young daughter, Swayam Prakash as brother Jalbesan, Lakshmi as his wife, Sukumar as Sarabhoji Maharaj, Lakashman as Gopalakrishnan were in prime roles. There were at least 40 compositions of Thyagaraja songs rendered by playback artistes and some were presented with reference to context.