(Last Updated on : 07-08-2014)
Praja Natya Mandali is a branch of the Indian People's Theatre Association
or IPTA. This is actually the Andhra Pradesh Branch. This was started in 1943. By 1948 it had ushered in a new cultural movement in Andhra. Much before its emergence, the youth of Guntur and Krishna districts had trained in the arts at workshops. When its contingent of these artistes participated at the inaugural session of IPTA in Bombay, it won praise for innovative excellence.
Under the leadership of Garikapati Rajarao and Koduri Atchaiah, the Praja Natya Mandali conducted district workshops and taught youngsters the performatory methods of Telugu folk forms including Burrakatha. It formed district units that took the message of anti-fascism to the public.
Shaik Nazar's Burrakathas and Koganti Gopalakrishnas Hitler bhagavatam i.e. 'Hitler's Bhagavatam' as well as Simla bhagavatam i.e. 'Simla's Bhagavatam' was written on the lines of traditional Bhagavatam or Yakshagana
. These were provided with modern content and thus proved immensely popular.
The Mandali's contribution to the enrichment of Telugu theatre is remarkable. It presented Atreya's Parivartana i.e. 'Change' in 1945. This was a play on capitalist exploitation and very successfully. Its productions of Mundadugu i.e. 'A Step Forward' in 1946 and Ma bhumi i.e. 'Our Land' in 1947 created history. Written by Sunkara Satyanarayana and Vasireddi Bhaskar Rao, both were hailed for their progressive themes and chaste yet idiomatic Telugu. Mundadugu was about the farmers' fight against zamindars' atrocities. Ma bhumi, on the resistance of innocent men and women of Nalgonda district to the Nizam's brutality, scored a thousand performances for two million people within a year, enough for it to be proscribed. By 1948, the Mandali's activities were suspended after political interference. Attempts to revive it did not come to fruition, though one of the units remains active in street theatre