(Last Updated on : 24/01/2009)
Andhra Nataka Kala Parishath or (ANKP) is a major institution in Andhra Pradesh. A group of critics, actors, patrons, and playwrights started it in Tenali in Guntur district in 1929 to provide a platform for theatre people to exchange ideas. They included Vanarasa Govinda Rao, who was the founder of Surabhi Theatres. They also included Kasinathuni Nageswara Rao Pantulu, editor of Andhra Patrika and former actor. Achanta Venkataraya Samkhyayana Sarma, a respected dramatist and critic was also a member. One of the other members was Kothapalli Laxmaiah. He was Govinda Rao's secretary and an able organizer. Above all, Malladi Viswanatha Sastry, popularly called Viswanatha Kaviraju was related with the institution. Although there had been occasional earlier theatre congregations in Visakhapatnam (1919), Machilipatnam, and Nellore (1920-4), these were not as organized or as regular as the ANKP's annual conferences.
The Andhra Nataka Kala Parishath's history can be traced in two stages of development. As for example 1929-43 and 1944 onwards, though its active work ceased by 1960. During the first phase, it served merely as a platform at which established actors, dramatists, and patrons met for an annual festival. Popular plays were performed and useful lectures on important topics of theatre art delivered. In the second phase, the Andhra Nataka Kala Parishath led the important Realistic Movement of Telugu theatre. As against the existing tradition of musical plays i.e. padya natakam, it pleaded for socially relevant theatre. To achieve this, it held annual competitions regarded as a touchstone of artistic excellence, insisting that only social or one-act drama written within the previous five years was eligible to participate and that women should enact female roles.
New plays, performers, and associations that became famous in the next quarter century came out of these competitions. The writers Kondamudi Gopalaraya Sarma, Acharya Atreya, Pinisetti Srirama Murthy, D. V. Narasa Raju, Bellamkonda Ramdas, Avasarala Surya Rao, N. R. Nandi, Bhamidipati Radhakrishna, and Gollapudi Maruthi Rao were the winners. Among the actors Ramachandra Kashyap, K. Venkateswara Rao, Chaganti Sanyasi Raju, J. V. Ramana Murthy, and V. Ramanna Pantulu; the actresses Nirmala, Annapurna, and Lakshmi were prominent. The directors Atreya, Kashyapa, Ramana Murthy, Venkateswara Rao, and Chatla Sreeramulu all emerged from ANKP competitions. However, since 1960 the Andhra Nataka Kala Parishath has not hosted these contests regularly because other financially sounder organizations hold them on a larger scale.