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Rambo of mimicry

G.V.Ramana Rao finds out the secret behind the success of Sylvester


There is no syllabus for mimicry. It cannot be learnt as a course Sylvester

PHOTO: RAJU.V

When Telugus, wherever they are in the world, talk about mimicry, the first name to pop into their minds is Sylvester, after Nerella Venumadhav. For people in Vijayawada, the word mimicry is synonymous with Sylvester - popularly known as `silver star'.

Mimicry is said to be the oldest of art forms. But for the art of mimicry, there would have been no Ramayana. Ravana could abduct Sita only after the rakshas, Maricha, lured Lakshmana away from home by mimicking the voice of Rama. Mimicry was in vogue even in the Stone Age when the cavemen mimicked the calls of different animals either to lure them into their traps or frighten them away from their caves.

Born and brought up in this city, he is today the Sylvester Stallone among mimicry artistes. Thota Sylvester belonged to a poor family that could not even send him to school. An Italian priest recognized the spark in the boy and admitted him in the Bishop Grassi High School, Gunadala.

Imitation

He was an active member of the school drama group. Taking care of different sounds from behind the stage, Sylvester got hooked to the pleasures of the art form and the immense popularity it gained for him in his school. The applause for the different animal calls and sound effects he made from behind was always more, as compared to the best scene on the stage.

Even then Sylvester did not become a professional mimicry artiste. Football was his passion and he looked to it for a livelihood. As sportsperson who was still striving, the money he earned was not sufficient for his needs. Mimicry programmes he performed on the side augmented his income.

Runaway hit

Once he decided to depend on mimicry for a living, he became a great success. Depending on his creativity Slyvester is known to many as a mimicry artiste with a mission. He puts aside some time to give a social message to the audience on a variety of subjects like AIDS and superstitions. He has also been working to educate farmers on the proper use of pesticides. Instead of organizing mass-contact programmes through electronic media, personal visits would, indeed, make a lot of difference. Most farmers he meets are more than convinced about the methods of integrated pest management. Sylvester, humbly yet proudly, says art can be used to influence the ways of life in society. He, in the same breath, says: "Art is for art's sake. I do admit. But, it comes to the fore only when an artiste becomes self-sufficient in all respects."

Sylvester, with a sense of pride, says he, for that matter his profession, doesn't have a guru. "There is no syllabus for mimicry. It cannot be learnt as a course. Ventriloquism, mime and magic do form part of this art. As branches, they can be taught in a specified time-span. But, mimicry has to come from within," he says. Sylvester was invited to give performances in the United States of America, twice by the Telugu Association of North America (TANA) and once by the American Association of Physicians (APPI). In the USA, he gave performances in cities like New Orleans, Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Columbus, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Boston, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Cleveland, Houston and Denver. He was also invited to give performances by the European Telugu Association (ETA) and Telugu associations in Dubai, Sharjha and Abudabi.

Sylvester won accolades from persons who held very important positions including the former Governors, K.C.Abraham, Kumud Ben Joshi and KonaPrabhakara Rao, the former Chief Ministers Anjaiah, Bhavanam Venkatram, Kotla Vijaya Bhaskara Reddy, Nadendla Bhaskara Rao, N.T.Rama Rao, and Nara Chandrababu Naidu, and the former Lok Sabha Speaker, the late G.M.C. Balayogi.

It was very difficult to impress personalities from the tinsel town, but Sylvester won accolades from stalwarts like S.P.Balasubrahmanyam, Chakravarthy, K.Viswanath, Jandyala, Gummadi, Nutan Prasad, Chandramohan, Saikumar, Brahmanandam, A.V.S., Akkineni Nageswara Rao, Jaggaiah, Chiranjeevi, and actresses Jamuna, S.Janaki, Jayasudha and Jayaprada.

With the passion he had for theatre he could even gain recognition as a stage actor and director. His play, Prema Samrajyam, bagged four Nandi Awards and won much fame for the members of the cast.

Even at the age of 55 and with his two sons and a daughter settled into good careers, he still holds the fire in his belly.

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