Art and Culture
QRant: AP and Telangana, Where Are Your Artists?!
Hey, people of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana,
I hope you’re doing well, but I don’t think you are. For decades now, there’s been a mass exodus of artists of different fields from both of your states. I don’t think you understand the gravity of the situation, which is quite surprising, considering your innate love for your language and art forms. So, allow me to give you a wake up call.
Balamuralikrishna is Just the Tip of the Iceberg
By now, the tiff between NT Ramarao, Andhra Pradesh’s first filmi CM, and Balamuralikrishna (singer/composer/genius/songwriter/actor...) is a legend of sorts.
But for those who came in late...
NTR came to power in 1983, defeating the Congress for the first time ever. He then went on to abolish ALL of the state academies, including Sangeet Natak Academy, Sahitya Academy and others. Basically, no more patronage for the arts.
Balamuralikrishna saw this as a ‘foolish and senseless’ move. He boycotted Andhra Pradesh, moved to Chennai, and vowed not to perform in the state as long as NTR was CM. Eventually, NTR did call him back to give him an award. He went to Hyderabad, took the award, didn’t sing and returned to Chennai. That he spent the rest of his life outside Andhra Pradesh isn’t a testament to his stubbornness. It’s a clear indication that you, Andhra and Telangana have still done nothing for your artists.
What’s more important is to provide the space, the funds and the wherewithal to allow artists to develop and practice their art. Which brings us to another luminary that YOU drove away.
Kuchipudi’s Greatest Revivalist
Before Vempati Chinna Satyam, Kuchipudi was considered a ‘rustic’ form of dance. It was he who revived it by bringing together elements of the Natya Shastra, foot work, refined expressions and his own unique style.
He is a Sangeet Natak Academy fellow and a Padma Bhushan recipient.
But you can’t take much credit for it, Telangana and Andhra.
Satyam set up his Kuchipudi academy on a small scale in the 60s. Impressed with his work, MG Ramachandran, CM of TN, gave him five grounds of land (about 27 cents or .2 acres) at a concessional rate, and provided an additional Rs 1 lakh to level it.
Later when Jayalalithaa became the CM, she gave an additional 3,000 sqft adjacent to the land given earlier, at the same concessional rate!
Satyam’s Kuchipudi academy continues to be a hub of great writers like Arudra, cartoonist Bujjaya and others.
All of this is happening in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. FYI AP and Telangana! F.Y.I!
Let’s Talk Films Now
Okay, I get it. Maybe you’re not really into classical arts. I’d have forgiven you, if you were an individual. Sadly, AP dude, Telangana bro, you’re both ‘states’, capable of helping an art form flourish, or destroying it.
I digress. Let’s take films now. I’ve got just two names to start off with;
Ghantasala! and Bapu!
Non-telugu people, here’s a parenthesis for you. Telugu people, maybe you too should listen intently, since you’re halfway into forgetting these stalwarts anyway.
Bapu and Ghantasala
Bapu was an artist, painter, cartoonist, writer, film director, composer and so much more! He was one of the first Telugu directors to make woman the center of a narrative.
Google ‘Telugu art’, and the first thousand pages will be filled with his paintings, or the Telugu font he invented, or paintings of his paintings.
In his last radio interview, Bapu had said that he had nothing to say to the government or politicians, ‘those great men who have destroyed the state’.
He received a Padma Shri in 2013, just a year before he died in Chennai.
Ghantasala (singer/composer) was the voice of literally every male lead and superstar in Telugu cinema for over 35 years. He won the ‘best playback singer’ award for 30 years straight! He remains the only individual after the 15th century Saint Annamacharya, to be allowed to sing inside the sanctum of the Tirupathi temple. He died in 1974 in *drumroll please* Chennai!
P Suseela (born in Vizianagaram, AP), who has sung over 40,000 songs in four languages across 60 years (!!!), is a Telugu who lives in Chennai.
S Janaki (born in Guntur, AP) has sung in over 17 languages for six decades (and counting), and lives in Chennai.
K Vishwanath (born in Guntur, AP), the film director whose movies from the 70s and 80s are ahead of our times even now, lives in Chennai. He’s a Padma Shri and Dadasaheb Phalke recipient!
Actors Anjali Devi, Gollapudi Maruthi Rao, writers Arudra, Devulapalli Krishna Shastri... I could go on! Honestly, I find this exodus scary. Don’t you?
Have the Governments Done Nothing?
Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, you have done nothing of consequence. After abolishing the academies, NTR did form a unified Lalitha Kala Academy (not to be confused with Lalit Kala Academy), for film writers, probably the one art form he was fond of. But nothing much has come of it. Not even a website!
Telangana held the Prapancha Telugu Mahasabhalu (World Telugu Conference) in Hyderabad in December. It called for the promotion and propagation of the Telugu language. There were laser shows... cool! Not!
Which is why the next generation of artists too, including the legendary Yamini Krishnamurthi (Kuchipudi) resettled in Chennai and now in Delhi. This is why folk singers Sita-Anasuya, who are probably the last of their kind, are now in Delhi. This is why veteran critic and writer, record collector and descendant of the Bobbili royals VAK Ranga Rao lives in Chennai.
Look, this is what I don’t get. I grew up in Visakhapatnam (AP), on a generous dose of Pelli Pustakam (a movie by Bapu), Swathi Muthyam (K Viswanath movie) and innumerable reruns of Mayabazaar (Ghantasala).
My love for Telugu spans 17th century poet Vemana’s philosophical verses, to the hilariously crass dialogues of Jambalakadi Pamba. The surprising thing is, all of the Telugus I’ve known love their language and their art even more! And yet the exodus!
Blaming just the governments though, isn’t fair. There hasn’t been any large scale private endeavour to protect the art and the artists in the last fifty years either!
At the end of the day, I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth, and a quote by Balamuralikrishna, which Supreme Court Justice Chalameshwar re-iterated;
“Today, Tyagaraja is alive because of the Tamils.”Balamuralikrishna
Listen up Telangana! Hear, hear Andhra!
I really wish you well, because I don’t think you are!
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