(Our Culture)
Issue: 59
5104 Kali Era, Chitrabhanu Year, Kaarteeka month
1924 Salivahana Era, Chitrabhanu Year,  Kaarteeka month
 2002 AD, November
Author: Sreenivasarao Vepachedu , PhD, LLM

Raghava Ballari (1880-1946)

Raghava Ballari was one of the greatest Telugu drama artists.   He was born on August 2, 1880 in Tadapatri, a village in Anantapuram district.  His father was Narasimhachari and mother was Seshamma. His religion was Vaishnava and belonged to a caste/tribe called Srivaishnava.  He was married to Krishnamma, daughter of Lakshmanachari of Kurnool.

He finished his Metric in Ballari High School and graduated from Christian College, Madras (now Chennai).  He practiced law after graduating from Madras Law College in 1905.  Very soon he became rich and popular as a criminal lawyer and well known for his cross examination tactics.  The British Government recognized his talent and appointed him as a public prosecutor and also awarded him the title "Rao Bahaddur."

From his childhood, he was very interested in drama and started his acting career at the age of 12.  He founded Shakespeare Club in Ballari and played Shakespeare dramas.  Raghava portrayed main characters in various dramas in Sreenivasarao Kolachalam's group called Sumanohara in Bangalore.   

Harischandra, padukapattabhishekamu, savitri, brihannala, ramaraju charitra, ramadasu, tappevaridi, saripadani sangatulu, etc. were his famous dramas.  He visited various countries like Sri Lanka, England, France, Germany and Switzerland and gave seminars and lectures on Indian drama art.  He was also invited to America and Russia, but he was unable to go to these countries.   Eminent people like Mahatma Gandhi and artists like Rabindranath Tagore were impressed by his dramas.  He was very popular among the common people as well.

He encouraged women to participate in drama.  His students who later became very popular included female artists like  Sarojini Kopparapu, Padmavati Kommuri and  Annapurna Kakinada, and male artists like Vasudevarao K.S., Apparao Basavaraju and Kanaklingeswarrao Banda.  

He flirted with film industry briefly.  In 1936, he played Duryodhana in Reddy H.M.'s "draupadi maana samrakshanam."  He also acted in raitubidda and chandika.  However, he quit the film industry quickly.

Raghava was influenced by a spiritual master Pandit Taranadh who established an ashram on the banks of Tungabhadra river and contributed a lot to this ashram.  He used to provide financial help to anyone in need.  He was against traditional extravagant marriages and ghettoism.  He lived a simple life, in spite of his tremendous wealth.  

He believed that music should be down played in drama and social dramas related to social reforms should be given more importance.  He advocated that drama should bring some social benefit to the society, in addition to entertainment.  He continued his interest in drama until his last day on April 16th, 1946.  A prestigious award "Ballari Raghava Puraskaram" was instituted in his memory and is awarded to talented artists who contributed to drama and cinema.   

Source: "Nooruguru Telugu Pramukhulu,"  Narasimharao M.L.

Copyright Vepachedu Educational Foundation Inc., 2002.  All rights reserved.


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