Tikkavarapu Pattabhirama Reddy – Poet, Film maker of international fame from Nellore

Tikkavarapu Pattabhirama Reddy was born into a rich family in Nellore on 19-jan-1919.  He studied in Shantiniketan under Rabindranath Tagore. He went on to study English Literature and History of Cinema at Columbia University, New York. His first literary work was the Fidelu Ragala Dozen, a collection of 12 poems. This was a revolution in Telugu poetry.

Pattabhi, as he was popularly known , received wide acclaim for the path-breaking Kannada film, Samskara. It won the national award for best feature film in 1971.(the same year that Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali was also in competition.) It also received numerous international awards, including the Bronze Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival. Samskara triggered the art film movement that flourished in Karnataka in the 1970s.

He is known for his films Chanda Marutha, Sringara Masa, and Devarakadu in Kannada and Pellinati Pramanalu, Krishna Arjuna Yuddham, and Bhagyachakram in Telugu. He received the Puttanna Kanagal Award from the Government of Karnataka in recognition of his lifetime achievement in cinema.

Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to their home in Nellore when he was a little boy proved to be a turning point, with several family members joining the freedom movement. Pattabhi gave up his luxuries and became a socialist later in his life. He was also a founding director of the Concerned for Working Children (CWC), a private development agency that addresses the problems of working children.

Pattabhi’s daughter Nandana Reddy, who is a trade unionist and social worker, says her father always put his entire energy into whatever he pursued. Like, when he saw actress Snehalata dancing and fell in love with her. He vowed he would not shave until he married her and marry her he did in 1948 against the wishes of both his and her parents as the bride was a Christian and inter-caste marriages were quite a taboo then.

Pattabhirama Reddy passed away in Bangalore on 6-May-2006.

I used to see his sister Shyamala very frequently in the Mulapet area of Nellore. That was when I was a school going kid.

If you have read till here, I strongly urge you to read this  highly emotional article on the Pattabhi couple by Dr. Kondal Rao Velchala.

Sneha- Pattabhi – Dr. Kondal Rao Velchala

Pattabhi’s name is synonymous with courage, confidence and willpower. While writing on Pattabhi’s “Fidel Ragala Dozen,” Shri Burra Venkata Subramanyam has attributed “Cleverness” to Pattabhi and called his poetry “Clever Poetry” which is far from truth.

Pattabhi’s poetry is as bold as Pattabhi himself. All his actions including his poetic compositions, reveal his extremely independent and unconventional nature. His fearless acts can’t be enumerated at one go.

Renouncing all comforts and luxuries, he had the courage of conviction to rebel, marry a woman of his choice breaking all the social, regional, religious and caste barriers leaving all the wealth and the riches of his parents behind.

“Shantiniketan” became ‘Ashantiniketan’ for him as what he saw there was not to be found anywhere else and therefore isolated. So he returned to cities like Calcutta and Madras but was very soon disillusioned for the reason that they could not provide the ‘Peace’ which he so fondly hoped and aspired for.

His poems in “Fidel Ragala Dozen” faithfully mirror the filth and moral degeneration of the cities which he had so much dreamed and imagined to be different emotionally, intellectually and intuitively.

He went to America to study literature but diverted to the study of Film Production and turned homeward having felt uncomfortable and unadjustable there.

On the literary front, he raised a banner of revolt against the classical traditions of poetry, grammar, prosody and other literary patterns as he felt that they stood in the way of creative liberty of the many young and budding writers.

He included in his book not only articles and essays eulogizing his poems in “Fidel Ragala Dozen”, but also articles in which he was bitterly, bitingly and spitingly criticized.

For instance :

“It is a geometrical composition which does not require eyes or ears as per Tikkanna’s description; it is neither prose nor poetry, hanging like Trishanku with no end or purpose” said Duvvuri Ramireddy.

“There are rare places, just one or two, where the verses cease to be merely clever, and attain the serious dignity of poetry. But generally speaking, cleverness is the only claim of these poems to be noticed” said Burra Venkata Subramanyam.

“The poems cited above (Marina, Bhogamdana, Navyastree, Kamakshi Koka) are nothing but pure animal passions – a long – suppressed libido beyond human control. It is a blessing that such erotic and unhealthy writings are allowed to die along with Pattabhi. The volume of poetry (Fidelu Ragala Dozen) reveals the unsavory fact that the poet in his enthusiasm has killed the very spirit of excellence and high standard on which Prose and Verse survive. He flouts the rules of blank verse blatantly. They lack the swing, the verve and nuances of Verse-writing. It appears as if he turned the syntax and grammar upside down to suit his own whims and fancies” said Dr. C. Narayan Reddy.

He included all of them in his book saying: “Let the readers judge, the time decide who is right, who is wrong in the long run” and the time proved and also the judgment of the readers what he hoped and expected, anticipated and predicted.

He remained steadfast and stuck to his guns throughout. By producing the internationally acclaimed Kannada film “Samskara” he established his credentials as a great social reformer and iconoclast. A satire on caste denominations, discriminations and superstitions, it exposed the hypocrisy of the society which claims superiority of birth over superiority of bearing.

He spit fire on dictatorial trends in authority in his picture “Chandamarutha.”

He gave a new direction to film production and recommended to his fellow producers to lay more stress on ‘Art Films’ than on ‘Commercial Films’ to minimize the outlays and the losses. The films in this genre which he produced were: “Shrungara Masa” and “Devara Kadu” in Kannada. He fought and won against many hurdles created by the Film Censor Board, and got his films screened all over the world for which he received national and international acclaims and awards.

He was a follower of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia and fearlessly practiced socialist ideology. He gave shelter in his house to those who opposed the establishment not caring for the consequences. He lost his dear wife by doing so. The imprisonment of his wife could not shatter his courage or conviction nor that of his wife Snehalata who was equally daring and unsparing of autocratic attitude of ‘Authority’. He was highly praised by the progressive thinkers when he got his only daughter married without pomp, show and glory.

Though born as an aristocrat he died in penury without a house or a site of his own.

What an exemplary life he had led! What a chequered life too, to stand undeterred by his principles, convictions and values!

He symbolizes Tennyson’s dream of an ideal and active hero like Ulysses whose philosophy can be summed up in his famous poetic lines:

“One equal temper of heroic hearts,

made weak by time and fate,

but strong in will

to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield”.

Snehalata

The name itself symbolizes friendship and tenderness, the two characteristics for which she was widely admired and appreciated. She was very kind and very courageous. She was highly civilized in her look as well as outlook . She combined the best of the “Tradition” and the best of the “Modern” – a rare combination indeed of the west and the east.

In our day to day life we come across many people whose living is different from writing, doing is different from saying, precept is different from practice. There are many, who talk and write about culture endlessly but their lives do not reflect anything that they write or speak.

Many, who write volumes regarding socialism and also speak volumes about it but they themselves do not practice what they espouse or advocate. There are many others who talk a lot in the name of culture but are hardly the cultured and many others who talk a lot in the name of charity but are hardly the charitable.

In such a bleak and dark sky appears Snehalata as a bright and blazing star full of vivacity, valor and vigor. She has proved worthy of her christened name, which means amity and amicability. By temperament she was very cheerful, optimistic and bold and had accepted multiple challenges in her personal life. She loved her associates and sincerely desired their well-being and happiness as a true socialist, that too as a Lohian socialist.

She was a charming lady with rare qualities of heart and head, a great artist, an able manager, a talented writer and a profound thinker as her writings reveal. Her residence was full of guests and visitors to whom she not only gave shelter and hospitality but also showered abundant love and affection. She was no doubt, a perfect hostess.

She was above all the sectarian feelings of race, region, religion, caste or colour. A staunch follower of socialist ideologies, she fought relentlessly against imperialism of all kinds everywhere. She courted jail in pursuit of her ideals. She faced the physical and mental anguish and agony with fortitude. Nothing could subdue her indomitable soul. She seemed to be in agreement with the maxim:

“Stone walls do not a prison make nor iron bars a cage”. She fought for the rights of her fellow prisoners much more than for her own self. Her whole life was dedicated to the service of humanity. Her personal sorrows and tragedies could not cool her heroic spirit. She became a paragon of ideal womanhood and was loved and admired by millions of her fellow men.

She was the cultural ambassador of the nation in a way who stressed more on the development of one’s inner culture than the outer. She was pragmatic in her outlook and was opposed to arm-chair approach to ideology and philosophy. She combined in herself the Gandhian realism and Lohian idealism to emerge as a Lohian socialist of Indian brand of socialism.

The powerful impact of parental culture on the children of Pattabhi and Sneha can be seen in the words of response that they conveyed in the card that they printed and posted. (after receiving condolence messages on the demise of Pattabhi):

“You called and sent messages. You came bearing flowers, warmth and comfort. You consoled us. You shared our pain and helped us bear the emptiness of the enormous vaccum. We would like to thank you for all your gentle love and support. We all lost a father and a dear friend and with his passing the magical net that is the ‘Family Pattabhic’ has been further strengthened. Let us nurture these bonds.”

The message reveals their deep emotional overtone and flowering of true culture. The entire family including their servants joined in paying their respects to the departed soul. It reveals a great cultural legacy that Sneha and Pattahi left behind.

Other articles on Pattabi.

He set new directions – The Tribune

A Man of all Seasons – The Hindu

Fruits of Labour – The Hindu

- Nellore Lover

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