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A humanist lyricist

A young woman, completely nude, moved from one train compartment to another making the men to sit up and ask "Are you not ashamed?" The woman replied, "I have already lost my honour at the hands of Razakars and have nothing more to lose. It is you who should be ashamed of not doing anything to protect the womenfolk".

That young woman had the bitter experience of being tied to a tree and repeatedly raped for days together. The plight of several other women in Telangana was no different in the late 1940s.

The incident was reported in the "Krishna Patrika". Young Bhagavathula Sankara Sastry was touched by the news and the outcome was his magnum opus, under the pen name `Arudra', "Tvamevaham", which portrayed the ruthlessness and brutality of the Razakars and the Nizam in Telangana during those days.

The poem penned in 1948 was published in "Telugu Swatantra", the next year. An imaginary sand clock and a water clock were used by the poet to depict time in `Tvamevaham'. The `hours' are a symbol of the rich and affluent, the `minutes' denote the attitude of the middle class and the `seconds' are likened to the mentality of the working class. A stop watch was depicted as an instrument to measure `revolution'. The `key' fanned revolution, while the `alarm' was a warning of the prevailing situation.

Born in Visakhapatnam on August 31, 1925, Arudra had his schooling in the city, residing at Butchirajupalem. He later moved to Vipparthivari Veedhi in Old Town area and subsequently shifted to Vizianagaram in 1942 for his college education. The seeds of Communism were sowed in his mind after he came in contact with people like Ronanki Appalaswami and Chaso. His "Samagrandhra Sahitya" consisting of 13 volumes, is a classic in itself.

When the Japanese bombed the Visakhapatnam harbour in 1942, the city was virtually emptied and people moved to safer places. He wrote "Ukku pakshulu rettalu ralusthunnayi, janam brathuku bata meeda balusu aaku vedukkuntunnaru" (the people are fleeing the place to save themselves from the bombs being dropped by aeroplanes). He referred to the planes as birds and the bombs as their droppings.

Arudra wrote several poems on his reminiscences of the World War II. His "Clerk Surya Rao" was a reflection of modern city life. He projected the city from various angles.

He joined the Indian Air Force as a band boy in 1943 and served it till 1947. Later, he shifted to Madras and worked as editor of `Anandavani' magazine for two years. Joining the cine field in 1949, he wrote lyrics and dialogues for many films. He married noted writer, Ramalakshmi, in 1954.

A multi-faceted personality, Arudra also translated literary works from Tamil, Hindi and English into Telugu. The Tamil treatise "Tirukkural", which he translated into Telugu was an astounding success. A voracious reader, he was also a story writer, cine script writer and a playwright. He coined new words by Teluguising English words like cherished and perished.

Arudra earned a lot of money by writing songs for films and set up a huge collection of books in Madras. Later, he donated the books to a library. He was an accomplished chess player and used to play the game at the Hindu Reading Room in Old Town.

The statue of this multi-faceted personality is on the Beach Road.

B.M.G.

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