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J.V. Somayajulu

Sahridaya Sahithi, as part of its weekly literary sessions every Wednesday, featured a talk on `Katha - Kavyam' by Velcheti Subrahmanyam, the cultural correspondent of the 'New Indian Express'.A teacher in the BHPV High School, he is a connoisseur of fine arts and literature, besides being a good critic and noted short story writer. His `Toorupu Kathalu', depicting the Agrahaarika Jeevitham of the coastal districts of Andhra, captioned collectively `Eduvaaraala Nagalu' for 'Andhra Prabha Weekly', attracted all-round accolades. Titled `Pumbhava Annapurna', `Prabrahma', `Pandirimancham', `Daivaleela', `Pagalevennela', `Goranthadeepam' and `Anthamu', they were serially published in the magazine during August-November 1992. No wonder, the talk by Velcheti turned out to be inspiring and thought-provoking. Emphasising that no other form of creative writing, including the classics (kavyams and prabandhams), both in the poetic and prosaic idiom, other than the story form, did ever remain so popular in the history of literature anywhere in the world, he said that the impact it created affecting and even triggering revolutionary changes in socio-political patterns stood colossal compared to the sophisticated exercises in any literature, He gave examples like Anton Chakhov's short stories, Maxim Gorky's `Mother' and the like.

Tracing the history of the art of story writing in the country from the remote past, the `Brihathkatha' in Paisachikabhasha by Gunadhya whose exact period is not known for certain (3rd B.C. - 1st A.D.), Velcheti said that it was not only a pioneering work in the format but also served a role model for the later works in Sanskrit like 'Brihathkathamanjari' and so on.

Asserting that katha, because of its simplicity in sculpture, while directly appealed to all alike, kavyam, prabandham, natakam, etc., were understood and appreciated only by the learned. Explaining how the story line of the ever great play 'Abhignanasakunthalam', 'Manucharitra', 'Kalaapurnodayam', etc., bore close semblance to Gunadhya's stories of Mrigavathi and Sahasraanika, Kalingasena and Vatsaraja, Sooktimathi and Kolahaludu, he explicated Gunadhya's invincible influence over generations of writers. He further enunciated that Gurazada, Viswanatha, Sri Sri, Malladi and the likes achieved the stature of mahakavis because they were basically master story tellers, giving examples of Viswanatha's `Raju', Guarazada's `Diddubaatu', Sri Sri's `Ose Tuvvalanduko', etc. Making a passing reference to Gurazada's `Kanyasulkam', Tagore's `Bikshuki' and Raavi Sastry's short stories, Velcheti concluded that katha from time immemorial remained uniquely popular and would continue to be so forever. The past president of the sahithi, M.T.S. Raju, the present incumbent, L.R. Swamy, who chaired the session, Bayya Suryanarayana, and D. Lalitha Kumari, participating in the interactive session, provided a vibrant finale.The sahithi secretary, Sekharamantri Prabhakar, proposed a vote of thanks.

* * *

Visakha Sahithi dedicated its weekly schedule to the memory of the stage and screen celebrity, J.V. Somayajulu, who passed away recently at Hyderabad. Its president and doyen of the theatre, playwright and writer-poet, Ganapathiraju Atchutarama Raju, went nostalgic recapitulating the dramatic activity in general in Visakhapatnam and Vizianagaram, his own involvement at the theatre with his proud contemporaries, Raavi V. Chalam, his brothers Kondala Rao, Srirama Murthy, Somayajulu and his brother Ramana Murthy in particular starting from the late 1940s. Somayajulu was one among the very few actors who were paragons striking perfect balance of Vaachika and Aangikaabhinayas evolving magical cadence in their acting on the stage, Dr. Raju went on.

It was not a wondrous happening that Somayajulu achieved celebrity status overnight. Making his debut on the stage at the age of 16 at M.R. College, Vizianagaram, in 1944, ardently putting all his mind and heart and with arduous effort, he improved with every performance and had come to be reckoned with as one among the maestros of the art by 1970s itself. Endowed with the most appropriate physique, coupled with sonorously rich ringing voice, he was the only and the best option perhaps left for the renowned cine director, K. Viswanath, for the role of Sankara Sastry in 'Sankarabharanam' in 1980s. Somayajulu, no doubt, was extremely lucky that he got such a demanding role under such a stalwart director, and together both created history warranting it to be recorded in golden letters, concluded Dr. Raju.

The octogenarian actor, director, producer and playwright, Raavi V. Chalam, recalled his association with Somayajulu, at the Ballari Raghava Memorial Drama Festival held regularly every year from 1949 till the early 1960s under the expert stewardship of Vedula Jagannadha Rao at Vizianagaram in particular.Noted cine writer, dramatist and playwright, Kasi Viswanatham soulfully recalled his association with Somayajulu on the sets of the movies like 'Vamsavriksham', 'Saptapadi', 'Thyagayya' and so on. The former official of the Indian Revenue Service, C.S. Rao (founder president of `Praja Spandana'), Ponnada Kumar and P. Raja Rao of AU Theatre Arts Department spoke. Some of them recalled how the Ugadi Puraskar annual fete of the Madras Telugu Academy by choice featured Somayajulu to perform some scenes from 'Sankarabharanam' regularly till last year ever since the picture was released. They also mentioned that rich tributes were paid at a condolence meeting held in Chennai at a function under the aegis of MTA with its founder-convener, T.V.K. Sastry, in the chair.

A. RAMALINGA SASTRY

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