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Remembering the martyrs

Celebrating 150 years of the first war of Indian independence through cultural programmes. Gudipoodi Srihari



Patriotic fervour A group dance sequence from the playlet Komaram Bhim

Prajanatyamandali celebrated 150 years of India’s first Independence struggle in 1857, by staging a variety of cultural programmes at Ravindra Bharathi for three days. Posters with pictures of martyrs of that struggle were exhibited.

The festival began with the patriotic song, Desamunu Preminchumanna. The West Godavari district unit of Natyamandali put up a street play Manya Poratam with Alluri Sitaramaraju as the hero who fought against the B ritish on one hand while mitigating the problems of the forest tribes on the other.

Three plays were staged in the main theatre of Ravindra Bharathi, one on each day. The rest were street plays. Another troupe hailing from Guntur district presented the story of Kanneganti Hanumanthu as Pullari Veerudu. But the titl e given is Veergandham. This reflected the deplorable conditions in Palnadu then, when a non-cooperation movement was raised by Hanumanthu. He was finally shot dead by the British.

Satya Vaggeyam means ‘truth in word and song’. It narrated the biography of freedom fighter Garimella Satyanarayana. . Garimella Satyanarayana’s patriotic songs are still remembered. Mahatma Gandhi had asked freedom f ighters of other states to follow Garimella’s path. Garimella also died of poverty.

In this pack of themes, the story of Komaram Bhim was less known till a documentary was made on his life by Adivasi Chitra. Komaram Bhim belonged to Gond tribes. He revolted against injustice meted out to his brother and others. He defied the law and cut to pieces the soldiers, perpetrators of that crime. He breathed his last fighting with the army of the Nizams. He lit up the dark world of Gonds with flames of ideologies and fought against unjustifiable collection of cess (tax) from Gonds. He eventually became a veritable deity to the Gonds.

Veera Telangana, a street play, depicted the autocratic rule of Nizam and the way people fought against bonded labour and to acquire their land back that was usurped by the henchmen of Nizam. The song Bandenaka Bandi Katti inspired the movement. This was staged by Nallagonda troup of Natyamandali.

Kurnool Prajanatya Mandali staged a drama titled Paalegadu. The play presented the revolution by Paalegallu in South India even before the first Independence war against East India Company’s exploitation. Th is happened a decade after Veerapandya Kattabomman fought against the British in Tamil Nadu. Palegadu Narasimha Reddy terrorised the East India Company in Rayalaseema area. He was deceitfully arrested, killed and the body was hung on the fort. Alongside the plays at the venue, Janagaon people’s theatre group organised an exhibition of photographs and paintings depicting the momentous occasions in the first war for independence. Freedom fighter Parsa Satyanarayana inaugurated the exhibition that had a rare collection of 70 photographs.

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