BV Radha Krishna, remembers the literary genius on his 155th birth anniversary today and talks about what made him translate Gurazada Apparao’s masterpiece, Kanyasulkam, into English
Replete with humour and sharp social commentary, Gurazada Apparao’s classic, Kanyasulkam still remains a masterpiece in Telugu literature for its relevance in present times. And on Gurazada’s 155th birth anniversary today, who better than BV Radha Krishna could talk about the literary genius?
Radha Krishna invited us into his beautiful home to talk about what makes the play, which was first staged in 1982, a timeless piece. Sipping chai and munching on murukulu, relishing the sound of chirping birds in his vast garden, we get talking. Ask him why he chose to painstakingly translate Kanyasulkam into English and he says, “One of the best ways to thoroughly read a book is to write it down. The only other way it is to translate it. It’s only then that the intricacies of the content and the words come out.”
Two young engineers that he was working with set him on the journey. “When I asked them if they have read the book, they said that they do not understand the mandalikam. It made me believe that there was a possibility of finding an audience for the English translation.”
When he got down to the task, he referenced a few translations, but discovered that the content had been carried forward, but the meaning of the words was lost. “It took me five years to translate the play. I had to call up various scholars to understand the meaning of certain words.”
But Radha Krishna believes that the most interesting aspect of Gurazada was that he used characters that the society deems ‘uncultured’ to utter the most profound things in the play. “There’s a dialogue in the book with one of the characters wondering why the Brahmins indulge in such secret illicit affairs. Another character responds that they would refrain from doing so if they had the chance to remarry. Then there’s a liquor shop owner in the play who utters a profound poem: ‘Drink drink until you fall onto the ground, what if you’re drunk when realisation dawns, the sober man will look at the drunkard.’ It made me wonder why a sober man would look at a drunkard; it can be taken as a frivolous poem. But when I dug deeper, I realised that Gurazada could have used symbolism to get his point across. He could be saying, if you’re immersed in any activity or profession, you should get deep into it like a drunkard fallen onto the ground. And when you become so engrossed, you will realise your own self. The fellow who hasn’t yet realised it yet is looking at the emancipated person,” he elucidates.
Talking about emancipation, the most liberated character in the play happens to be Madhuravani, a prostitute. “While her age isn’t explicitly discussed, she cannot be more than 23 or 24, and yet, she talks of great philosophies, of human relationships, and shows innumerable compassion for her fellow women. A person who would be considered as unethical by society is the most ethical person in this story. Gurazada proved morality of a person is the conscience’s measure of honesty.”