వెలుగు నీడలు - Unsung Heroes - 2



What's with stage experience that ones that have it rave about and ones that don't crave for? Shouldn't acting be acting whether on stage or celluloid? If acting, as they say, is simply reacting, then what difference would it make if it is done in front of a live audience or for a passive one, as in the case of movies? However much an actor would benefit from an instant honest reaction while performing on stage, the real benefit that stage experience bestows a serious actor is understanding and adjusting to the tone of the moment, whether something needs to be dialed-up or down in just a matter of few seconds. And the 'tone' here is a pretty loaded word. It can mean the mood or the voice effect as well as the boundaries of operation for a given situation, even more so when there is no dialogue involved. And it is for this reason that all actors worth their salt flaunt their time on stage as a badge of validity/credibility certifying their ability to quickly adjust to their surroundings. And Kota is right up there with other stalwarts who can stand out in a frame regardless of whether he is at the center of the proceedings or its periphery. Viewers of early 80's telugu transmissions of Doordarshan would remember his efforts in plays both comedic and otherwise as 'ఇల్లలికిన ఈగ',  'హుష్ కాకి' and such, where he, along with Subbaraya Sarma, anchored the proceedings as main stays, earning his spurs as prime talent to watch out for in the coming future. More than the dramatic plays which had the luxury of strong writing and author-backed roles, it is the comedic side that is more challenging to any actor, particularly on stage, where he would be all alone as the sole focus of attention with little more than his talent and timing to come to his aid. And it is here that Kota ranks high above his illustrious predecessors and worthy compatriots with his acute sense of squeezing out humor even out of wry situations that is generally devoid of the usual comedic cues. Consider the following three scenarios that envelope Kota's comedic abilities and the rest in between go without saying.

The man dozing off in a corner is jolted into the present by the news of someone getting married. And off starts the rant with the hook phrase 'Cards Printed' where he contrasts the two marriage styles - arranged and deranged (love) - going on to prove that regardless, marriage is, in the end, a black hole sucking in the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of every man. In fact, this is a long winded monologue without any explicit punchline. The entire joke is in the setup itself. On paper, the dialogue appears pretty flat without the usual setup-repartee volley. But what makes it work is Kota's splendid delivery mixing sarcasm, bitterness and worldly wisdom, warning the prospective groom from taking the plunge. The year was 1993 when loudness was being passed for comedy and physicality was reigning supreme with kicking one another as the defacto M.O. And in came 'Money' with a whiff of freshness and subtlety that was almost unheard of in telugu cinema, and Kota's 5 minute segment all delivered in broken English walked away with lion share of the honors. This is an actor in perfect sync with the mood the scene - somber, sullen and sunk - not going even an inch above the set tone, delivering what is otherwise the tragedy of two experiences turning sour in such a whirlwind fashion that the audience is caught breathless in overwhelming amazement at the end of the monologue. This is subtlety and smoothness rolled in one. If Dame Judi Dench could win an Oscar for a mere 10 minute role as Queen Elizabeth in 'Shakespeare in Love', then this stellar sequence lasting even lesser duration deserves no less for its impact and impression.

Exhibit No.2 - This is the bread and butter of telugu film comedy - loud, bumbling and near slapstick. Subtlety and nuance have no place here and it is all about announcing the intentions loud and clear. Case in point - 'శ్రీ కనకమాలక్ష్మీ రికార్డింగ్ డాన్స్ ట్రూప్', an ensemble piece with at least 5-6 characters occupying the frame at all times, interrupting and talking over each other constantly in a typical Vamsi fashion. All the tall talk about stage comes in handy here, when Kota had to respond to the cohabitants of the frame matching their rapid fire dialogues with equally loud physicality, all the while making sure that he wasn't going overboard. And Kota does just that. The moment he hands over the dialogue to the next character, the flailing of the limbs, the wild contortions of the face, the near constant movement of frustration and restlessness take over. This is not mere acting. This is choreography, this is ballet, and this is Mime, all rolled in one solid package. The highlight scene when Kota & troupe transform themselves into a legitimate dancing party meant to give pious performances across the temple circuit during the festival season, in order to convince నిర్మలమ్మ to part with her talented grandchild, is an exercise of bravura physical comedy. 'పాహి అని అశోకవనిని శోకించే సీత' played over different tempos, Kota ably molds the performance starting off as a straight legitimate dance master ending up as a raucous road show ring master. This is physical comedy at its best and Kota remains equally at ease with these floor gymnastics.

Lastly, the meaty roles, where the author shines more than the actor, and even then, the ones that actors still love to get their hands on. When 'comedy' and 'writer' are taken in the same breath, the word association automatically ends with one name - Jandhyala. As Sirivennala often lamented, there was no fun in writing for K.Viswanath, as the situations that he created automatically lent themselves for such high creativity and the additional prop and prep that he offered inevitably led to a lyric of stellar quality, with little in the way left for Sirivennala to stretch his aesthetic muscles. The same can be said for most of Jandhalya's works as the words themselves did most of the heavy lifting and all that the actor had to do was merely making sure that he didn't mess up (which again wasn't possible in such tightly controlled unit as Jandhyala's). Even in such cases, Kota refused to relax, this time chipping in with his inimitable intonation - 'సావిత్రమ్మను చూసి మన ఎంటీవోడు గద పిసకతావుండు', his entire portrayal as a committed skinflint in 'అహ నా పెళ్ళంట' and his recurring role as the bumbling police inspector 'తాడి మట్టయ్య' in 'Hello Brother' (this time from the EVV stable) and such. These are strong roles and equally strong portrayals. And for someone who has supreme command over the language, its different dialects, various pronunciations and varied intonations, Kota remains a writer's dream capable and committed enough to take on the complex and the challenging and deliver a result that is equally satisfying to both the creator and the consumer of the content.

Cont'd in next part - Villainy

The Old World Order




Isn't it just antithetical at the end running contrary to the well laid plans, that a tournament that has opened up the floodgates on the run flow, straitjacketing the bowler in the worst ways possible, be eventually decided on superior bowling performances? It made sense too. All teams being equal (in their abilities to clear the in-field, which even the Associate nations were able to do with considerable ease against the Member nations), the one that finally lifted the cup pulled away from the others by its explosive and exhaustive fire power in the bowling department. It is quite ironic that even after all the changes that lopsidedly tilted the scales in favor the batsmen, matches are won and cups are lifted riding the back of the age old maxim - bowlers win matches. Did the cricket council shoot itself in the foot here by wanting the make the games more exciting (read, boundaries and sixers) that it essentially created an all or no deal for its batsmen who can now only hit out or get out with no third, fail safe option? Save for the 2011 edition that was decided on which team kept on firing its batting cannons till the end, every other edition of the cup was an even contest between the bat and the ball, sometimes more in favor of the latter, which is how it is supposed to be in the first place. If there is one key takeaway from the current edition that can be rolled into the future plans for subsequent conquests, it is that the teams better stock up their bowling plans much more than bulking up the already fattened bats, for it becomes a tall task to lay claims on the top prize relying on offence alone (listening SA?)

As much as DeVilliers cried from the rooftops over and over again to everyone who was listening that they indeed had the lineup in the tournament (almost implying that they 'deserve' the cup more than the others), it was amply clear that it was the eventual champions that had it all, with batting firmed up and anchored by Smith, and bowling rallying around Starc and the fielding...well, just about everyone that made the roster on the game day. The surprising aspect is this team has no named superstars, yet the ease with which they blew away their opponents in the group stage belied their below the radar individual ratings. But for the stumble against the Kiwis during the group stage, even which they made a match of defending a paltry score, the Aussie engine chugged along with little to no hitches at all. This is particularly impressive of a team that got the boot in the quarters in the previous edition, went through a lot of personnel changes and yet found it stride back in less than a couple of years to crawl back to the top of all tables. The talent cupboard that laid bare post the retirement of the greats now seem to runneth over, which talks about the strength and the resilience of the Aussie system that keeps churning out strong players that quickly turn from impressive to menacing to downright fearsome in a short period of time. So this crown is as much a for the players who have persevered till the end, as much as it an ode to their setup that created such causation. So Hail to both the Kings and the KingMakers!

India's creditable run in the tournament was a surprise to everyone (save for the tall talking Ravi Shastri). This is a team that was down and out, done and dusted till a few days before the start of the campaign and yet found the hunger and the anger to devour every team in its path, before it finally met its match in the penultimate bout. All of a sudden, the lines, lengths and the discipline that were largely found wanting in the run up to the cup suddenly made an appearance in the armory. Added to that a consistent batting display by the top order and a fielding unit that even surpassed the best ever that took the field for India, saw it coast through the final four with no perceptible weakness. What is interesting this time around was that no one discipline had to double down on its own, the batting didn't have to get colossal every single time to cover for the lack of penetration of its bowling, nor the bowling had to quickly get into a containment mindset than go all out attacking not able to count upon its fielding brethren. Even more than in 2011, this edition saw India finally achieve the near perfect harmony among its playing units....that is, until it found itself on the collision course with the juggernaut. In the end, India was just beaten by a better team, not a team that simply played better on that day. When faced up against such an adversary, the odds are much worse counting on the other's failure on that day than relying on one's own strength to come good on the same.

And likewise with the Kiwis, India's doppelganger in the opposite pool, which relied more on the momentum to tide them over than on their own depth (not to mention, the baffling one sided nature of their grounds). Like all other teams (honorable exceptions: Aus and Ind, sometimes) Kiwis relied a tad too much on their explosive batting to come good on every single occasion...and it almost did, except when in the final, the Aussie attack was too planned, probing and predatory to the Kiwis' liking, which once again emphasized that teams with great bowling attacks tend to trump almost every time sides with phenomenal batting attacks. Speaking of batting records, the tournament saw orgies of run-fests, more so when the opponents lacked any toe-crushers or wily-curlers. Records were breached and created almost every other day, courtesy the mace-like bats and ICC's hare brained idea of not allowing the ropes to be manned by more people, rapidly ensuring that ODI batting turn into a regular T20 slug fest, just as meaningless, just as boring and just as inconsequential. When the supposedly best bowler in the trade, Steyn, gets taken to the cleaners with relative ease, even by wild card entrants, that's quite an indictment on ICC's policy of not just tying the bowler's hands behind their backs, but blindfolding them in the process for good measure.

And that's why the current Aussie victory is not just a celebration of the current moment, but an important statement for the future strategy and survival of the game, for this is a team that refuses to be bullied by the batsmen, or get bogged down the by the rules, or beaten down by the restrictions or cowered into submission by the policies. This team forces the opponents to win the traditional way - survive, build and accumulate - than through the nouveau technique of taking chances every single ball by trying to merely clear the in-field and let the ICC deposit the run in the batsmen's accounts. This win is a slap in the face of such coddling measures. And in claiming the top prize yet again and continuing to be a dominant force for well over a couple of decades, Aussies can pride themselves of not just rebuilding a champion side in record time, but in doing so they have created something that would seal their legacy in the history books - a dynasty. Like the Windies of the 70's and 80's, the Aussie team, system and setup will be looked up to in awe and admiration for achieving the kind of consistency and domination that all teams across all sports dare only dream of. And the icing is, they have done all of this in the old fashioned way - containing runs and taking wickets. Well, welcome back, it's good having you again!

శ్రీరామనవమి

మాయ


నునుపు చెక్కిళ్ళ కౌమార శోభలో
గాధేయ సారధ్యములో దైత్య పరివారమును
మరలకుండు విధముగ మట్టుపెట్టి
యాఙ్ఞికుల జన్నములు కాపాడు కధలు
వీనులారంగ నువ్వు వినలేదా?
అటువంటి విక్రముడా విహ్వలుడై హాహాకారమ్ములు చేసెడిది?

నూనూగు యవ్వన నూత్న ప్రాయమున
కౌశికుని కనుసన్నల ఆమోద ఆఙ్ఞలతో
అలవికాని బరువును ఆలవోకగ ఎత్తి
శరాసనమును విరిచి నిను వరించిన ఘట్టము
కన్నులారంగ నువ్వు కనలేదా?
అటువంటి పరాక్రముడా పరువులెత్తలేక ఆపసోపాలు పడునది?

ప్రేమాతిశయముతో వలచి వచ్చిన పడతిని
మర్యాదపూర్వకముగా తిరస్కరించిన తప్పుకు
మీదపడిన ముష్కర మూకలను తిప్పికొట్టిన తెగువను
పారు సెలయేరుకు జోదుగ రక్తపుటేర్లను పారించిన ధీరమును
విప్పారిన మోముతో చక్తితవై నువ్వు వీక్షించలేదా?
అటువంటి అసమానశూరుడా మాయలేడి బారిన పడి అశువులు బాయునది?

అన్నగారి వెంటే సర్వ సుఖములను
తృణప్రాయాముగా తలచి త్యజించినవాడిని
పతి ధర్మము కన్న సేవా ధర్మమే మిన్నని
కానలలో మీ దారిని తన కంట కాచిన సౌమిత్రిని
నీ కన్నబిడ్డవలె నువ్వు సదా సాకలేదా?
అటువంటి మరిదినా నువ్వు అన్నగారి స్థానముపై ఆశ పెంచుకుంటివని ఆరోపించినది?

కాకరాయని తెంపరితనము నువు చూడలేదా?
శూర్ఫణక క్రోధమును చవిచూడలేదా?
జనస్థానమున ఆగడములు నీకు అగుపడలెదా?
అసురుల కుతంత్రములు నీ తెలివి తర్కించలేదా?
గుండెలు పిండు భవతీ భిక్షాందేహీ పిలుపున
గీత దాటవద్దన్న మనవి నీ చెవికి సోకనేలేదా?

బంధములో భయము ఒక భాగము
వీరతనములో విపత్తు అవిభాజ్యము
ప్రమోదములో ప్రమాదము మమేకము
అనురాగముకు ఆపద, ఆప్యాయతకు అభద్రతలు నిత్య అనుచరులు
సప్తవర్ణాలదీ ప్రేమ వింత పోకడల చిరునామా

యుగాది



విమర్శ

శక్తి వంచన లేకుండా గుండె గంట కొట్టుకుని పోతోంది
ఎవరి ప్రోద్బలం లేకుండా కాలం కీలు కదలి పోతోంది
ఊపిరి పాటలు దివరాత్రుల ఆటలు నిశ్శబ్దంలో జరిగిపోతున్నాయి
అనుభవాల జడిలో ఙ్ఞాపకాల తడిలో రోజులు దొర్లిపోతున్నాయి
ఇక చెప్పుకోవడానికి మిగిలినవల్లా మైలురాళ్ళు
గతం నేటికి వేసే ప్రగతికి పునాదిరాళ్ళు

బ్రతుకుకు అర్ధం పరమార్ధం సాధన శోధనే
కార్య రాహిత్యము కామ్య శూన్యత్వము మరణముతో సమానమే
ప్రయాస పడని పనిని నెత్తికెత్తుకున్న ప్రయోజనమేమి?
నుదుట చెమట చిందని చాకిరీన కలుగు ఉపయోగమేమి?
ఇది జంతుకోటి నుండి నేర్వవలసిన ఆవశ్యకమే
ఆటలో వేటలో కుదురన్నది లేని కదలిక అందుకు నిదర్శనమే

నిరుడులా ఈ యేడూ సాఫీగా సాగిపోవలెనన్న ఆలోచన
అవయవాలు ఉడిగిన ఆచేతనమును కోరుకొను మృతచింతన
ఒడిదుడుకులు ఉథ్థాన పతనాలు పురోగతికి ప్రతీకలు
ఇవిలేని జీవితపు మూల్యము గాలివాలున పోయే గడ్డిపోచకు సమానం
మదిని కదిలించని మతిని మధించని బ్రతుకును ఎన్నడూ కోరుకోకు
నీకు ఇంధనమివ్వ లోన కణకణము రగులుతున్న మాటను మరచిపోకు

కాలాన్ని చక్రాన్ని చేసి మరలి వచ్చే రోజుని మరల పలకరించే ప్రయత్నం
ప్రతి వత్సరం నీ సంకల్పాన్నీ ప్రయత్నన్నీ ప్రశ్నించుకునే అవసరం అవకాశం

శివరాత్రి


మూలం

కాలానికి అతీతమై నిలిచి
అర్ధానికి అందనిదై మిగిలే
నిత్యమైన సత్యము ఏమిటది?
తనను అంతటా చూపి
అనంతములో అన్నింటిని కలిపే
సర్వమైన శివము ఏదది?
కూర్చుకున్న భాషలో అమరి
అందుకునే భావములో ఒదిగే
శాశ్వత సౌందర్యము దేనిది?

బంధానికి కట్టుబడని కళ్ళు
రాగానికి పట్టుబడని చూపు
స్తిమితమైన దృష్టియే సత్యము
గతిని కాలానికి కిచ్చి
మతిని ఆలోచనకి కూర్చి
వేదికైన సృష్టియే శివము
అణువు మొదలు బ్రహ్మాండము వరకు
వేరు ద్రవ్య రాసులను ఒక్కతాటిన కలుపు
అంతస్సూత్రమైన ప్రేమయే సుందరము

ఎరుక కలిగిన యోగమే ఈశ్వరము
నిశ్చల తత్వమే సచ్చిదానందము

Let the heads roll





Carpets are rolled, trumpets are blared, bugles are sounded. The carnival is in the town. And everyone is just where they want to be. Aussies are comfortably sitting atop the throne with the Kiwis and Proteans very much in the contention for the crown. The rest, happy to start off with the tag of "also ran"s hoping for some last minute miracle allowing them to sneak into proprietary club of Champions. This is a strange edition of World Cup where one bad day at office, post the inconsequential first round, would knock even the mighty off their perch and a good streak for a team is having 3 better days in a trot to claim the Cup. Obviously business reasons helped shape the format of the competition, ensuring that viewership powerhouses stay in the game for as long as their team's fortunes boil over. Though the curtain raiser is on Feb. 14th, it isn't until a total one month after when the real knockout fun starts, and as said, 3 good days is the road to victory.

Strangely, the defending champions look in no position to defend the title. And all the talk about "Won't give it back" can come true only if the team sneaks away from the continent in the middle of the night with the cup without informing its hosts. All other options do not appear promising. Whatever BCCI has planned getting the team ready for the tournament by planning a long tour to down under, so that the team has a good couple of months getting acclimatized to the conditions, seem to be in vain. Even after the long tour, playing in a variety of conditions, Indians do not look a settled bunch. They look tired, jaded and uninspired. The so called 140kmph hurlers who were supposed to terrorize opposition into abject submission appeared as little more than cannon fodder on fast and bouncy pitches, dispatched behind the boundary rope faster than their run-ups. Which goes on to prove that there is lot more to bowling than mere spraying. None of the bowlers created any impact in the Test or ODI series (and some of them were played on juicy pitches), with the batsman shouldering majority of the burden of seeing the team off to safety on a majority of occasions. Interestingly, none of the lead-up series to the prior world cups saw the Indians emerge as a confident bunch willing to take any opposition head on. But then, in 4 of those earlier editions, 2 resulted in appearances in the final and a couple, in forgettable outings. It cannot get more theoretical probability than that. Toss a coin 4 times, and count the chances - 2 heads and 2 tails. If this is indeed a conscious game plan of the Indians to not raise expectations of its fans and keep the opposition under a false sense of comfort before they unleash their latent potential when and where it actually mattered, then, Bravo!, they have everyone fooled, they are right where they want to be - written off and not be counted at all!

The larger of the two hosts are on a high, their gameplans are working out, all the cylinders seem to firing at just the right time, the couple of months of practice time testing out various options and combinations all pointing to culminating into a stability that all teams hope to achieve before the beginning of such high profile tournament. The Aussies are spoiled for choice right now. If the only reason there are trying to rush in their reasonably fit captain into the side is loyalty, that talks about the starter & bench strengths of the team capable and confident of carrying an injured member in a world cup without a second thought. The only thing that can go against the Aussies has nothing to do with their performances, it could be the pressure of living up to the high expectations in front of their home crowds. Bowling, batting and fielding, they got it all, now only if they can hold their nerve and not get too excited by looking too far into the tournament, the cup is theirs to claim and carry. The only other team that can possibly stop the victory march of the Aussies is their little brother, the Kiwis, who are on a dream run of their own, peaking at just the right time. Time immemorial, New Zealand has been the slaughterhouse of visiting teams, with barely a team or two in top form able to break the stranglehold of the Kiwis in their own back yard. Statistically, home ground advantage has always rested with the Kiwis, and now with all their departments well oiled and positioned to knock out anyone - the mighty and the minnows - it wouldn't be a surprise to find the neighbors battling it out for the top prize in the finals, and the better man (on the day) lift the cup. It is that close a call between the Aussies and the Kiwis and the only thing that can tip it in the Kiwis' favor is the home crowd pressure in the finals to be played in Australia. Other than that, deciding the eventual winner in the Super Over might be the just thing that can happen on the Finals day.

Talking about poetic justice, South Africans once again start the tournament as the team with the best chance but with the worst luck. Time after time, they find a reason to let others walk away with the glory, while they retire into the sunset unable to figure out how a team that has it all always ends up with a nought. Proteans problem is more in between the ears, than it is with the pitch or the performances. They seem to want more, they seem to try more, and at the final hurdle, they stumble because of that same desperation. Save for the time when weather robbed them of their rightful chance in 1992 and that other time in 1999 when Allan Donald ran like a duck to pave the way for a decade worth of Aussie domination, South Africans chose sympathy every time over victory with their inexplicable batting collapses in key contests, earning a well deserved "awwww...." from all. The current team doesn't appear as strong and as formidable as the previous ones, with the batting looking a little wobbly. But then again, that is the vulnerability that helps teams win world cups. Impregnability and formidability might be good going in, but when the chips are all down, and the gameplan is shot beyond recognition, it is that unpredictability/vulnerability that usually comes to the rescue. And hopefully that chink in their current armor might turn out to be their trump card, after all!

As the quote in Gita 'Where ever there is Krishna, and where ever there is Arjuna, there is victory", where ever there is unpredictability, vulnerability, volatility, instability, there is Pakistan waiting in the wings, raring to prove everyone wrong. What can one say about Pakistan that can be counted for something? They can plunge to unseen depths in the shallowest of contests, yet they can rise beyond everyone's expectations in undeclared moments. They have the talent, yet they lack the discipline, they have the power, yet they are wayward on control, they have the potential, yet a bit short on temperament, they can soar to the skies, and they can bite the dust with the same ease. With Pakistan, it is never about the potential, it is all about the possibilities. In victory and defeat, they never cease to amaze.

England and Srilanka are the only teams without an X-factor, they come as advertised. Their batsmen all have the skills and their bowlers, the necessary firepower. But the only thing that pulls them down on foreign soils is their predictability. They aren't ruthless like the Aussies, nor commanding, like the South Africans, nor maverick like Pakistan, nor imposing like the Kiwis (in their own back yard). Aussies, Kiwis and Proteas are a shoo-in for the 3 semifinal spots, with the lone spot up for grabs among the subcontinental teams and the English. Sure, the West Indians would like to have a say in the shape of the final 4. Even for a one day, they need to have a lot of good 'one days' to be able to decide that, and with their present form, making it past the last 8 would be a long shot's best case.

If there could be a theme for the 2015 edition, then it would be a battle between the predictable and the volatile. If ODI prides itself more on upsets and uprisings than ruthlessness and hegemony, the battle lines are drawn up clearly between the warring sides. It is just a matter of holding the breath and hoping for a surprise.

సంక్రాంతి





భూమాత


కర్రు చేతల పుణికించిన పులకలతో
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కష్ట సుఖములెరిగిన ఒక కర్షకయ్య చేతిలో పెట్టి
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అత్తవారింటికి సాగనంపు సమయములో
కంట నీరు ఇంకి గుండె బీటలు వారి....

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