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Versatile Muddamsetty



M. Hanumantha Rao

He gave up directing stage plays, as his friends and acquaintances pestered him for roles in his plays. That was several decades ago and that reflects his honesty and commitment to his work. Little wonder that in later years, he was one of the most sought after judge for various drama competitions, which were held not only in his native AP, but also in West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa.

Meet Muddamsetty Hanumantha Rao, the popular storywriter, playwright and novelist who made his mark in the Telugu literary field. His stories and novels, which mostly reflect middle class lives, carry a message or a moral. No wonder he came to be known as 'Madya taragati kadhala Muddamsetty'. Even his friend and noted writer, the late Rachakonda Viswanadha Sastry, used to address him that way.

Born in Kalivaram village in Srikakulam district in December 1928, he moved to Kharagpur (West Bengal) to join the Railways. He worked for the promotion of Telugu in Kharagpur. He was one of the founders and president of the Mahakavi Gurazada Vidyalayam, which has completed its silver jubilee, and secretary of the Subhas Primary School, another Telugu medium school in that town.

His popularity can be gauged from the fact that he was invited as chief guest for the centenary celebrations of the famous novelist, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee. His fluency in Telugu, Bengali, Hindi and English surprised the people of the town.

As secretary of the Rabindra Institute in Kharagpur, he read many books authored by the popular writer, Kodavatiganti Kutumba Rao, and was inspired by his stories.

Muddamsetty took to writing short stories in 1950. Later, he wrote poems, novels and children's books. A dozen one-act plays and four of his dramas were published. He had broadcast about 80 radio plays over All India Radio from Visakhapatnam, Hyderabad and Chennai kendras. He cherishes the making of his story, 'Ee Anubhavam Chaalu' into a radio play by the noted actor, Sthanam Narasimha Rao.

Along with N.R. Nandi and S.J. Rao, Muddamsetty was responsible for the establishment of the 'Pravasandhra Nataka Kala Parishad' and 'Andhra Vigyana Samithi' (library) at Kharagapur.

During his tenure as general secretary of the Sri Rama Navami Celebrations Committee in Kharagpur for 12 years, he was instrumental in making renowned musicians and singers from Andhra like Nookala China Satyanarayana, Srirangam Gopalaratnam and S.P. Balasubrahmanyam perform to the delight of Telugus in Kharagpur. The Ghantasala memorial functions conducted by the committee had attracted SPB, G. Anand and V. Ramakrishna.

Muddamsetty was popular as a judge for drama competitions held in Bhilai, Bilaspur, Kolkata, Jamshedpur, Gaddenapalli, Rayagada, Srikakulam, Berhampur, Garividi and Chodavaram and conducted by various public sector units like Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, Hindustan Zinc Limted and Hindustan Shipyard Limited.

His plays, 'Deyyam' and 'Antha Mosam' were adjudged the best productions in the Parishads in Kharagpur and Gollaprolu.

He was honoured with the Madras Telugu Academy's Ugadi Puraskar in 1999 and the Delhi Telugu Academy Puraskar in 2000. He was felicitated by a number of literary trusts and educational institutes, including the Kurella Sahiti Trust (Visakhapatnam), the Indian Institute of Technology (Kharagpur), Vigyanavardhini (Bobbili), Visakha Cultural Society (Gajuwaka) and Amma, a literary organisation (Visakhapatnam).

A disciple of Vaddadi Papayya in art, he has also tried his hand in painting.

Muddamsetty has penned about 600 stories and over 40 novels in his literary career spanning over half a century. His story, 'Ushodayam', was made into a documentary film by the Films Division.

His first story was published by the Chennai-based 'Surya Prabha' and his first novel, 'Paadu Lokam', was published in 'Andhra Prabha' in 1956.

He is the vice-president of Visakha Sahiti, a literary organisation and an adviser and executive member of 'Amma'.

"My ambition is to serve the literary and drama fields till my last breath," avers Muddamsetty.

B. MADHU GOPAL

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