"దేశ భాషలందు తెలుగు లెస్స" - తుళువ రాజు శ్రీకృష్ణదేవరాయ
"dESa bhAshalaMdu telugu lessa" - tuLuva rAju SrI kRshNadEvarAya
Telugu is the sweetest among all languages of the Land - Great Tuluva Emperor Sri Krishnadeva Raya, 16th Century

తెలుగు మాట...తేనె ఊట
TELUGU...a language sweeter than honey

మంచిని పంచుదాము వడపోసిన తేనీటి రూపం లో
తేనెకన్న మంచిదని తెలుగును చాటుదాము వేనోల్ల
ఇదే నా ఆకాంక్ష, అందరి నుంచి కోరుకునె చిరు మాట

"TELUGU - Italian of the East" - Niccolo Da Conti, 15th Century

"సుందర తెలుంగిళ్ పాటిసైతు" - శ్రీ సుబ్రహ్మణ్య భారతి
"suMdara teluMgiL paaTisaitu" - SrI subrahmaNya bhArati
Let us sing in Sweet Telugu - Tamil poet Sri Subrahmanya Bharati, 20th Century

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Theatre of Telugu Melodrama

There was much drama, and quite a bit of tragedy, in the formation of the Andhra state. It sounds like a melodramatic twist in a mainstream Telugu film. The journey towards statehood began with a fast unto death by Potti Sriramulu, a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, in 1852 demanding a separate state for the Telugus. After 53 days of fasting in Madras (now Chennai), he died. C. Rajagoplachari, who was then chief minister of the state of Madras, came under fire, and so did Nehru. At that time, the majority of people in Madras were Telugus! And the first language riots broke out.

So, the Andhra districts in the state of Madras were clubbed together to form the Andhra state in 1953. The coastal Andhra and Rayalseema districts were included in the new state, with its capital in Kurnool, and with its High Court in Guntur. The fiery Congress leader of the Freedom Movement from Andhra, Tangutri Prakasam, was made the first CM. But soon, there was a change. Bezwada Gopala Reddy from Nellore, who was educated at Shantiniketan, and who translated Ghalib into Telugu, became the CM. Neelam Sanjiva Reddy — who became President of India in 1977, and whose presidential candidacy in 1969 triggered the split in Congress under Indira Gandhi — was the deputy CM.

On the other hand, there was the Hyderabad state which had Telugu-, Marathi-, Kannada-speaking districts. The city of Hyderabad was a polyglot, with Urdu as the lingua franca. Hyderabad state came into being after the police action against the recalcitrant Nizam’s government, which wanted to be independent, in September 1948.

Then came the political games. There was talk as to why there should be two Telugu-speaking states! The Communists did not feel comfortable in the multi-lingual, cosmopolitan state of Hyderabad. So, they raised the slogan of “Vishalandhra” or Greater Andhra, demanding the merger of all Telugu-speaking districts into a single Telugu state. The Congress leaders of the day, ever the spineless ones, meekly followed the Communist slogan. Hyderabad and Andhra were merged, and Andhra Pradesh was formed.

Much water has flown through the major rivers in the state — Krishna, Godavari and the Musi, a tributary of Krishna, in Hyderabad. The state has witnessed many cultural and political revolutions. The economic revolution came late, and it remains an insignificant part of the story of the state. Andhra Pradesh continues to be an agricultural state. That is why farmers’ suicides is such a big issue in the state.

Apart from the Vishakhapatnam steel plant — which was part of the Soviet-inspired major steel plant projects that began with Durgapur, Rourkela, Bhilai and Bokaro of the semi-socialist era of post-Independent India — there are no big industrial plants in the state. The HMT (Hindustan Machine Tools) and the BHEL (Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited), on the outskirts of Hyderabad, did not contribute to the industrial clout of the state. And apart from the Nagarjuna Sagar hydro-electric project — the then US ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith carried a basket of cement on his head at the construction site — there have been no other major irrigation projects in the state. The others have remained works in progress for the last 40 years.

Cyberabad, the mirage conjured by CEO-CM N.Chandrababu Naidu, and broadcast by a credulous national and international media, is yet to take off in spite of the fact that Microsoft and other national and global IT majors have set up shop in the place. IT remains a job half-done in Andhra Pradesh.

There were two major political convulsions in the state. The first was the agitation for a Telangana state led by the late Dr. M. Channe Reddy in 1969. About 600 students lost their life, and thousands of students’ education was derailed. It led to the displacement of Kasu Brahmananda Reddy as chief minister. P.V. Narasimha Rao, a man from Telangana and who did not take part in the Channa Reddy-led agitation, took over as chief minister, the first from Telangana to do so. But he lasted in the office barely for a year because he was not a popular leader.

The second major convulsion, which was really a revolution, came more than a decade later. The popular matinee idol, N.T. Rama Rao, formed the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) on May 28, 1982, his 60th birthday, and won the state assembly elections in January 1983. And the ruling Congress set up a record of sorts when it changed four chief ministers in five years between 1978 and 1983! NTR then turned Telugu aatma gauravam (Telugu self-pride) into a victory slogan. And he was also the first regional satrap to spread his political net wide who brought the national opposition parties together — unlike the timid Dravidian leaders of neighbouring Tamil Nadu who supported whichever party was in power at the Centre — and created the National Front which catapulted the ambitious V.P. Singh into prime ministerial office in 1989.

A major cultural revolution was the shifting of the Telugu film industry from Madras-Chennai to Hyderabad. It did not happen soon after the formation of the state. It took more than two decades for that to happen. Akkineni Nageswara Rao built the Annapurna Studios in the late 1960s. It was followed by NTR’s Ramakrishna Studios and Krishna’s Padmalaya Studios. For the film-obsessed Telugus, this is the most significant development in the half-century of Andhra Pradesh. But the cultural mores of Telugu cinema are still derived from the lush and rich coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh. Cosmopolitan Hyderabad remains an alien backdrop to Telugu cinema plots.

Hyderabad is not the capital of Telugu literature or culture. The writers and artists are scattered among the people of different regions of the state —Telangana, Andhra, Rayalaseema. Though Telugu has replaced Urdu as the lingua franca in the state capital, it is the rich dialects of the language spoken in town and village across the state that sustain the lifestream of the language. The Telugu spoken in Hyderabad is a crude mixture of the diluted Telangana dialect and the Telugu drawl of the coastal districts.

Though Andhra Pradesh has contributed three presidents —Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, strictly speaking an outsider because he chose to live in Chennai, V.V. Giri, who belonged to the Telugu-speaking regions of Orissa, and Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, who remained a Rayalseema leader without a mass base. Then there is P.V. Narasimha Rao, the lone south India prime minister from south of the Vindhya, but who was a political stranger in his own state.

Hyderabad still retains its cosmopolitan charm despite being the capital of a Telugu state. Though it is the birthplace of Urdu, the language is losing its ground. But it is the migration of people from different parts of the country into the city which makes it a mini-India. Andhra Pradesh is seething with political, economic and cultural contradictions, and that is why it is so much more interesting than mono-clonal Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Gujarat. Like the tongue-scorching Andhra pickles, Andhra Pradesh remains a spicy state in its politics and in its gaudy, raunchy popular Telugu cinema which holds the state together.

Courtesy: FinancialExpress

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