Early Life of Bellary Raghava
Bon in the year 1880, he entered the theatre at the age of 12. He joined the legal profession at Bellary in Karnataka and worked as a junior to his maternal uncle, Dharmavaram Ramakrishnamacharyulu. Dharmavaram Ramakrishnamacharyulu was the illustrious dramatist-director. Initially known for his Shakespearean roles, he accepted an invitation from Kolachalam Srinivasa Rao, who was another well-known playwright of Bellary, to join the Sumanorama Sabha, for whom he played several memorable characters.
Life in Theatre for Bellary Raghava
Raghava was the only actor among his contemporaries, not bewitched by the commercial Telugu theatre. He was also a staunch advocate of the social problem play in prose, even while actively participating in mythological and musical drama. He wrote a script, Saripadayii Sangathulu i.e. "Facts Unpleasant" on such a theme as well. Visiting London in 1928, he met Bernard Shaw and actor Forbes-Robertson, bringing back ideas about rehearsing and blocking. Always in the forefront of theatrical innovation he directed P. V. Rajamannar's Tappevaridi or "Whose Fault Is It?" in 1930. This heralded the era of social realism. His short tenure in cinema as Duryodhana in Draupadi manasamrakshana in 1936, the farmer in Raitu bidda in 1939, and the hero in Chandika in 1940 were not particularly edifying and he preferred the stage.
Bellary Raghava acted important parts in more than fifty productions, in several languages including English, Kannada, and Hindi. Starting with Kolachalam's Sunandini parinayamn or "Sunandini's wedding", he played the leads in Ramdas, Chitra Naliyam or "Nala's Curious Tale" as both Nala and Bahuka.
He acted the role of Shivaji in Roshanara-Shivaji or "Roshanara and Shivaji" and Vipranarayana as well as Yugandhara in Prataparudriyam or Prataparudra's Tale. His Chanakya in Chandragupta is still remembered. His reputation for versatility was well earned, through performances as the traitor Pathan Rustum in Kolachalam's The Fall of Vijayanagar Empire, the god of death Yama in Savitri, and the demon Hiranyakasipu in Bhakta Prahlada i.e. "Prahlada the Devotee". He captivated Andhra playgoers by his virtuosity, creative ability, aesthetic sensibility, and portrayal of ethical dilemmas.
Raghava was respected for his munificence and reformist zeal. He started a night school for Harijans and lived with the inmates. His insistence on women taking female roles made him a torchbearer for actresses. A visionary in his lectures, he stressed theatre's role in nation building, and the need for professionalism and theatre training. As a member of the Amateur Dramatic Association, he contributed to Kannada theatre as well.
Bellary Raghava died on 17th August in the year 1946.