(Last Updated on : 24-03-2012)
Gurazada Venkata Appa Rao is a prominent Telugu theatre personality. Along with his lifelong friend Gidugu Venkata Rama Murthy, propagated the need for harnessing the power inherent in the spoken dialect. He also put his persuasive arguments into practice through his few but trend-setting creative works. Appa Rao is mainly remembered for his classic Kanyasulkam i.e. "Bride Price", performed in 1892 and published in 1897. This is a timeless play that not only reflects the Telugu character but also his personality. This Telugu Theatre personality offered strong satires on people's shortcomings and eccentricities but hailed the human spirit found in the lowest social strata. Gurazada Venkata Appa Rao, the popular Telugu theatre personality appreciated Kandukuri Veeresalingam's attempts to correct social ills, acknowledging his indebtedness to Kandukuri's Brahma vivaham i.e. "Brahman Marriage". However, this eminent Telugu theatre personality found Kandukuri's work bordering on comedy of manners, whereas Kanyasulkam, on the same subject, is a full-fledged comedy with a complex plot.
Early Life of Gurazada Venkata Appa Rao
Gurazada Venkata Appa Rao had his initial schooling in Cheepurupalli while his father was working there. His remaining schooling was done at Vizianagaram after his father died. During that time, he lived in relative poverty and maintained himself as a varalabbayi. Gurazada Venkata Appa Rao was generously taken care of by the then M. R. College Principal, C. Chandrasekhara Sastri who provided him free lodging and boarding. He completed his matriculation in 1882 and obtained F.A. in 1884. Soon after, he was employed as a teacher in M.R. High School in 1884.
Career of Gurazada Venkata Appa Rao
Gurazada Venkata Appa Rao's primary aims in writing were to expose such disgraceful practices as marrying girls of very young ages and also "give currency to a high standard of moral ideas". Inspired by the concern of his patron, the Maharaja of Vizianagaram, at such marriages and to help the cause of social reform, Appa Rao felt that 'until reading habits prevail among the masses, one must look only to the stage to exert such healthy influence'. Similarly, his matchlessly graceful use of spoken idiom challenged the practice in Telugu theatre of employing the granthika i.e. classical or literary language. The popularity of Kanyasulkam continued in spite of its major theme growing dated. So its strength lies elsewhere, in the vivid portrayal of social realities and universal appeal of the characters. Although they broadly suggest types, they go beyond to become class representatives and also stand as individuals.
Gurazada Venkata Appa Rao started two other plays that remained unfinished. Kondubhattiyam i.e. "Kondubhatta's Tale" extends Kanyasulkam, discussing broader ethical issues. Bilhaniyam i.e. "Bilhana's Tale" has a mythological plot that he ridiculed as irrelevant but, as he himself indicated, Gurazada Venkata Appa Rao composed it to show that even such drama could be written in the spoken dialect.