Play: Chekumuki Ravalu (Sparks from the Firestone), 1992
Written by: Attili Krishna Rao
Directed by: N. Harish Chandra, Natya Bharathi
‘Chekumuki Ravvalu’ (Sparks from the Firestone), a Telugu play, written by Attili Krishna Rao, and directed by Nethala Harish Chandra, was performed by Natya Bharathi, Visakhapatnam at the South Zone Theatre Festival in Hyderabad, organized by Sangeet Natak Akademi and Department of Culture, Andhra Pradesh on 9th December 1992.
In the play, an ant learns arithmetic and alphabets from Nigama Sarma (Nigama Sarma Akka is a famous imaginary character in Telugu literature created by sixteenth-century Telugu poet and scholar Tenali Ramakrishna), Vedas from the Chaturvedi (one who knows the four Vedas), and meets a rishi (sage) to learn about sin and the life of a Brahmin. After acquiring knowledge, the ant returns home and finds out that a snake has entered the ant hill. The ant confronts the snake and asserts that the community of ants are not slaves and they would not allow others to exploit their labor and oppress them. In the play, the ants, signifying the lower class/castes, organize themselves and fight the snake, which represents the landowners and oppressors, out of the ant hill.
The narrative of the play is a metaphor for the history of peasant struggles, and Leftist movements in Andhra Pradesh. The director in his note writes that “the theme of the play is ‘exploitation’ which is a synonym in the present ‘capital’. As the main characters are basically traditional rivals, the theme effectively expresses the goal of revolution.” The history of the land and capital relations, exploitation of lower-class people, and the transfer of farmland in the valleys to upper-caste farmers and moneylenders have always been matters of conflict between the two opposing groups — the land-owning castes and the landless and indigenous communities in Andhra Pradesh. The director further states that “the early 1990s saw the rise of the first generation of school-educated tribals in Andhra Pradesh. For instance, in Jeelugumilli Mandal of West Godavari district, they found an NGO called Shakthi which had just the kind of activism that the legal situation needed. It soon became a potent force (K. Balagopal, “Land Unrest in Andhra Pradesh-III: Illegal Acquisition in Tribal Areas”, EPW vol.42 no.40, 2007, 4030).” The peasant struggles such as the Naxalbari and Srikakulam Movements in the late 1960s, and the struggle for land and rights by the Communist groups between 1977-1992 resisted the feudal practices and the domination of landlords over the marginalized farmer’s community in Andhra Pradesh.Chekumuki Ravalu
Source: Brochure, ‘South Zone Theatre Festival’, Hyderabad, December 1992, Courtesy – Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi