(Last Updated on : 07-05-2012)
Dharmavaram Ramakrishnamacharyulu was a Telugu playwright. He is also famous as actor and director. He is known as Andhra nataka pitamaha i.e. "grandfather of Andhra theatre" or Telugu theatre
. Dharmavaram Ramakrishnamacharyulu originally Komanduru initially trained as a Shakespearean actor in Chennai. Returning to Bellary
as an advocate, he wrote and produced two short satires in Telugu, namely Unmatha Rama prekshaniyakamu i.e. "Insane Rama's Drama" and Madana vilasamu i.e. "Madana's Exploits" in 1879. These were not well received. His next play, Swapnaniruddham i.e. "Aniruddha in the Dream" in 1880 was in Kannada. Dharmavaram Ramakrishnamacharyulu's first full-length Telugu work was Chitra Naliyam i.e. "Nala's Curious Tale" in 1886 was first performed in January 1887. Influenced by Parsi Theatre
, especially Balliwala Company's performances in Chennai
, Ramakrishnamacharyulu introduced the elaborate singing of poems and songs. His experiment swept Telugu theatre for the next half-century.
Dharmavaram Ramakrishnamacharyulu's twenty-eight Telugu plays, only fourteen were published and four are available in manuscript. The others are lost, and many are mythological. The names can be mentioned as Savitri-Chitraswamu i.e. "Savitri
and Chitraswa" in 1890, Chirakari in 1890, Varudhini in 1896, Brihannala in 1897, Prahlada probably in 1898, Muktavali and Chandrahasa during 1896-98, etc. some others can be named as Panchali swayamvaram i.e. "Panchali's Choice of Groom" in 1900, Mohini-Rukmangada or "Mohini and Rukmangada" in 1901, Paduka pattabhishekam or 'Coronation of the Footwear' in 1903, and Pramilarjuniyam i.e. 'Pramilaand Arjuna' in 1905. Vishada Sarangadhara i.e. 'Sarangadhara's Tragedy' in 1896 was based on a local legend. This was the first original Telugu tragedy. Roshanara-Shivaji i.e. "Roshanara and Shivaji" in 1896 is historical. All are known for carefully constructed plots. Dharmavaram Ramakrishnamacharyulu introduced several innovations, including such Western dramatic conventions as prologue and epilogue, the five-act structure dividing acts into scenes, and, obliquely, contemporary social and political elements.
Dharmavaram Ramakrishnamacharyulu founded the well-known Sarasa Vinodini Sabha in 1886. This was a group that specialized in performing his plays. They invented the padya natakam or verse drama in Telugu. This initiated a new era of acting during which metrical stanzas were sung in profusion. The Sabha toured extensively all over the erstwhile Madras state with Dharmavaram Ramakrishnamacharyulu's plays, introducing the musical to coastal Andhra through its productions. It constructed its own theatre in 1905. However, a dispute on the rights of Dharmavaram Ramakrishnamacharyulu's manuscripts forced him to leave and start the Abhinava i.e. "new" Sarasa Vinodini Sabha in 1912.