A self-trained drama maverick
A senior actor, writer of play, director and a dedicated theatre personality Chalasani Krishna Prasad is a man of repute in Vizag and all over Andhra. Hailing from a small village in Krishna district and from a poor family where he worked for daily wages during childhood, Krishna Prasad's tryst with theatre led him to receive Research Fellowship from the Ministry of Culture.
Krishna Prasad has done his diploma from the Department of Theater Arts, Andhra University. He worked with Prof. Attili Krishna Rao, and together, they have introduced the concept of street play in Telugu. Dr Attili Krishna Rao started 'Natya Bharathi' and they performed street plays like 'Tommy Tommy' and 'Uregimpu' all over Andhra. Folk form (jamuku) was also introduced for the first time into plays by Krishna Rao, which was very experimental, says Krishna Prasad, "It turned out to be very popular and the performances received several accolades."
"I have no guru in this field, I was my own guru and came into this field." Krishna Prasad recollects the roles he played in his early days. He made his debut with playing the character of Satyaki (younger brother of Srikrishna) in the epic play 'Srikrishna Rayabaram". By profession he worked as a pharmacist in Visakhapatnam Dock labour Board and took his voluntary retirement in 2004. He travelled all over India with his plays. He is A grade artist in AIR, and B grade artiste in Doordarshan. He worked along with many artistes and directors of fame in the field of theatre. Recently, his social play "Sivaganga" (one-hour play with only two characters), "I want to perform the play on the stage," he shares.
Not the one to rest on his laurels, Krishna Prasad always tries to do something new in the field of theatre. Taking characters from the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, he wrote plays connecting them to the present context of social relevance. He directed popular plays like 'SreeRaghavam' penned by well-known writers, Dr Chintakindi Srinivasa Rao and Gummuluri Prasad, which received good reviews. He received the prestigious Golden Nandi for his direction of a play "Vishnu Sayudhyamu" written by Late Gummuluri Prasad. Awards and honours have all come as a recognition to his sincere effort. He received the Ajovibho award and also, Kandukuri Award and the Dasari Narayana Rao Gold Medal for acting in 1992 and for direction in 1993.
Currently, he is working on the characters of Gandhari and Sakuni and would soon be penning down a play. And as a part of the fellowship from Ministry of Culture, he would be working on the 'Dialects in Telugu Drama. It is a study that he has chosen to do in the dialectic Telugu drama from all four regions, North coastal Andhra, Godavari districts, Rayalaseema and Telangana. "There is no book written on this subject particularly and that is why I wanted to do it. I has been my dream project to write this book and now I am happy it received authentic support from the ministry," he relates.
And adds, "I have done a lot of running in this field. Now, I am seriously contemplating to slow down, work on few more plays. I may want to stage one or two, and I want to concentrate on my project. This book is a necessary work to be done."
That said, he laments the state of theatre in Telugu states, "Telugu plays are not up to the mark and the downfall is because of the lack of funds, also the lack of a government-supported free theatre. How can an actor or a director perform his play without financial support? Today, there is a lot of talent in this field, but to our misfortune, not many can showcase it because they cannot afford it. Government has to construct a theatre in all cities and towns, where all the artistes will have their freedom to perform. The Nataka Parishats are doing good work but are limited in their reach. Organisations like Ajovibho and others are supporting drama a lot. Even government should take this up so as to save the poor artistes."
"The government and also the voluntary organisations should make sincere effort to elevate our Telugu theatre on par with the Marathi and Bengal theatre," he emphasises.
May his tribe increase, and the Telugu drama revive its golden age once more!
- The writer is a bilingual
author, translator and a critic.