In the age of plays getting nearly close to the ‘endangered’ tag, Sri Sai Kalaniketan Welfare Society bring together proficient artists to perform a mythological epic.
Intrinsically Andhra, the poetic dramatisation of mythological stories, Padya Natakam is a riveting combination of music, prose, poetry and commendable histrionic acumen. It is a theatre form that is very unique to Andhra culture and is kept alive by the dedicated troupes and theatre aficionados. We played witness to one such mesmerising poetic drama depicting the story of Bhakta Prahalada.
These actors are dedicated to their art, to the extent that distances don’t matter when they get a chance to put on a show. Holding regular jobs by day, their passion for the art has gathered them to attend the darbar of king Hiranyakashipudu, as they essay their roles as demonic rakshasas.
A fascinating sight, the actors all cram into the narrow passage behind the hall they’re about to perform in. One actor paints on his eyeliner and eyebrows with perfection while another adjusts the wig on his head and the rouge on his cheeks.
Bagadi Riteesh Chand looks on with anticipation, his mild demeanour fading away the moment he wears his costume. He is Bhakta Prahalada, the star of the show. He has been performing since he was four and leaving his audiences in awe as he emotes and recites poems with such mastery.
It is no wonder though, seeing as how he comes from a family of performers. Since four generations, all the men in his family have been giving award-winning performances. His grandfather BVA Naidu and his father Vijay Sai play Narasimha Swamy and Narada in the play respectively. They have been performing since years, mythological padya natakam being their forte. The grandfather has in fact won a Nandi for his portrayal of Duryodhana. The women of the family like BVA Naidu’s wife Sita, are involved as well, though not on stage; they are the driving force with their involvement in art direction, scripts and even photography.
Even in the age of modern cinema and grandeur, fascination for the art still thrives in the heart of people. The dwindle of the art form is only in our psyche. Theatre is only about dispersing the good with no commercial elements to distract from the message. Plays will always live on.