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Doing the write thing

Kommuri Venugopala Rao was a sentinel of sentimental fiction in Telugu. His soft narration and vibrant themes made him a popular novelist, recollects senior journalist VEERAJI.



IDEAL COMPANY (Left to right) Kommuri Venugopala Rao with Gollapudi Maruti Rao and Edpuganti Lakshmana Rao

He did work quite early in his life on the essential of a novelist, but kept on redesigning the plot structures to interest the readers. Though he published more than 30 novels he was identified with two -- Penkutillu and House Surgeon. Both of them were generic in their own way. One on the roots of the middle class family under one roof, the other on the apprenticeship rituals of a medico. Written when he was only 15, Penkutillu reissued the intense melancholy that spread through the translations of Sarath Chandra and was published in 1957. House Surgeon's clinical analysis of a steadfast medico was at once gripping and comforting outfit to the readers. It was a loving irony that readers rapped them up, one for its natural habitat of the social but familiar environs; the other for its common experiences of a medical student, but unknown frontiers of service. Both of them ran into several reprints for their sheer readability.

They became elusive to regenerate clones and stood apart in Telugu fiction.

Oratory skills

For my parents, living in the vicinity of a doctor's family was a distinct advantage to share wonderful moments of friendship. But it was only when I returned to a local weekly in 1966 I could begin to spend some time in the evenings with peanuts and placid films at a local theatre. He liked to move with me in the company of Gollapudi Maruthi Rao, then working at the local radio station.

Dr. Kommuri, ritzy and suave, was no eloquent speaker, though he preferred to be one. So he prescribed a placebo to himself to begin with a joke to engage the listeners to score the first round of interest in his speech. To our surprise, it worked well and in a few months, he became a popular speaker, much sought after by local associations. A few weeks before his death, which occurred two years ago, he was eagerly listened to by a group of writers in a writers' workshop at Masulipatnam. I published his novel `Gorintaku' in my weekly as a serial and had gone through many of his works. In a career spanning 50 years of writing, he planned every thing interesting to retain the readership of two generations.

There were three distinctive phases in his creative endeavour. From sentimental writer to a rebellious, he might be less sarky of the middle class human relationships, but always engaging to catch the dissolving citadel.

Then he found the parents inadequate to safeguard the legitimate interests of the younger generation swayed away by the competitive push. Novels like Ee Desamlo Oka Bhagam were parts of this phase. By then the surge of forces of generating the popular fiction controlled by women writers was challenged by a crop of commercial writers. Dr. Kommuri endorsed it and became part of these writers, but was never attracted to the risqué plots that were his third phase.

Rare gift

His style was descriptive and the characterisation was tersely limited to the narrative premises. He had a rare gift to control the character to compel the event to follow. He had experimented with other writers to complete serials for radio, periodicals and weeklies. He could open up his characters to suit the inter locking of situations by other collaborators. As in a relay-run in an athletic meet it required certain tactical understanding of materials of others.

He was good at such presumptuous planning of a plot. In all his vicissitudes he kept his head high and mind scorching for the causes of a crumbling society and re-emerging kinships. During his lifetime he was cherished for his writings, some of which would still engage at least another generation. Such was his velour, a comforting read.

(As told to P.S. Bhatt)

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