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December 31, 2014

Terachiraju- A Disquiet Nocturne

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Written by: అతిథి
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Article written by: Santwana Chimalamarri
*********
On one of these cold winter evenings, I finished reading Terachiraju by Sri. Viswanatha Satyanarayana. The febrile reading fit of two days has ended. But the spell refused to break. A seemingly unfathomable silence seeped through me as I read the last two pages. The silence was the stupor of the theatre which refused to believe that the play has ended so. The silence was that of the stage that had seen all the actors egress. Yes, the play had ended. The illusions had been shattered. They had succumbed to the vigour of destiny’s tempest. Their distressed souls would have found rest in the abysmal depths of truth, of truth that can be neither escaped nor defied.

Viswanatha rarely ends his novels in abject tragedy. But when he does, he makes you quiver with anguish. The bitterness of a tragedy lies in its inescapability, the helpless of characters in fighting the forces that drive them to their doom. Tragedy looms high at the inception of every game of chess, as the death of a king is inevitable. There is no escape. Survival is but a worthless credit of the victorious king, for he has already lost enough and retains little strength to celebrate. Terachiraju is an anarchic game of chess, where the chessmen owe no allegiance to their kings. They devise strategies to overthrow others while staying blind to the swords pointed to their backs. They don’t bind themselves to an army nor do they defend their kin. All that matters for them is to survive and keep combating. They colour themselves black, white or grey numerous times, until they forget what colour they really are and which side of the game they are on.

The protagonists of Terachiraju are placed in mutually perilous positions at the very beginning of the novel. The first lines of Viswanatha’s works are extremely magnetic. They are the abbozzi of the magnificent fresco that he begins to paint upon his reader’s mind. The book starts in a crowded theatre playing the drama “Rukmangada”. A young girl of sixteen, Vasanthi, who is a promising singer and a dabbling actress, sings a verse upon the stage. The raga is Malayamarutham. The musical notes “slither through the still air above the spectators like graceful, young serpents”. The audience stand awestruck by the magical resonance of her voice. Then Saradhi makes his grand ingress. He is a middle aged thespian of enormous acclaim. His imposing stage presence does not emanate from physical beauty, he has none. His glory sprang from his ability to become the character he plays. He enacts the role of a romantic hero for the first time upon Vasanthi’s strong insistence. A sudden, alarming realization dawns upon Vasanthi during the act that her admiration for Saradhi has begun to assume a different character. Something unfurls within her when she finds herself the object of the great actor’s on stage romance. Her chaste and artless mind erases the borders of reality and illusion at that moment. The fresh sensitivity turns her raw. Her body becomes pervious to the feelings rushing through her mind. She momentarily becomes a great actress.

Everyone including Saradhi is amazed to find heremote so well. The revelation of those inchoate desires sets her ablaze. She finds the feelings disturbing and comforting at the same time. Adolescent confusions coupled with an asexual upbringing in a motherless household begin to take a toll upon her. She begins to understand untold things but has no elderly female to counsel her. Her father Sirish Kumar is a peculiar man who believes that artists should not have a family life. He despises the idea of marriage for his daughter fearing that it would ruin her musical career. So he chooses to ignore the obvious changes that spring up through natural evolution in his daughter. She has no friend to confide to except for Saradhi. He too understands that the night of the play has altered Vasanthi’s behaviour towards him. He dreads if he is mirroring her feelings silently in the arcane corners of his mind. The hapless attraction has momentous repercussions. Viswanatha reveals them slowly and artfully, as an intense play of light and shadow until you get lost in the lead pair’s labyrinthine minds.

While this forms the crux of the novel, Viswanatha also entwines some more threads into this masterwork. He fervently traverses the depths of an artistic mind through several chapters. He speaks at length about how solitude and agony whet the creative powers of an artist. Saradhi is a gifted creator. He could be more aptly described as an illusionist of consummate finesse. He leads an ascetic life in a faraway hut that is embellished only by a beautifully tended garden. All that he cares for is the sublime pleasure of making people lose themselves in the tales he tells through the stage. Drama is the ultimate synergy of all fine arts. Saradhi is the one who knows the measure of every ingredient that goes into the finest drama. He knows what great music should sound like and how feelings should be annealed into verses. He knows the assemblage of colours and fabrics that will accentuate the impact of a scene. Though the town praises him as a great actor, there are only a handful who really understand the depth of his acting prowess. Umapathi is one such connoisseur, Saradhi’s closest ally and toughest critic. Saradhi’s artistry is innate while Umapathi’s aesthetics have evolved through extensive reading. An artist might not always have the capability to explain his art. It is as natural to him as breathing. A critic’s mind delves into the deeper crannies of art and translates the nature of its appeal into worldly terms. Viswanatha puts a part of himself into certain characters of his. Umapathi’s erudition and taste hold a candle to Viswanatha’s own. He presents his philosophy of art and aesthetics through several discourses in the novel. He introduces ideas into readers’ minds with an amazing ease and exactitude.
“A work of art can reach several levels within a spectator’s being,” he says.

” The senses are the primary means of perceiving an art. The sensuous pleasure is only ankle deep. The senses are attached to the mind of a person (manasu). Many people do not allow the art to permeate to the levels beneath the mind. The intellect (buddhi) which also lies upon the mind does not have a part to play here. Ultimate pleasure is derived when the art permeates to the level of one’s inner conscience (antah karanam), after transcending all the sensory impulses. The attainment of such pleasure could be aided by an illusion of beauty. Yet, all the sensory illusions eventually fade away when such a pleasure is actually attained. ”

He talks of the role that intensity of nature plays in the creation of an art.
” People of shallow intensity can only produce some commonplace creations, if they ever try to create. Their creations are only pleasing to the senses at the most. If the artist is a musician, he cannot create new music and his talent would be limited to singing melodiously. If he is a sculptor, the technique of creating his sculptures would be perfect, though the subjects he chooses do not depict anything fantastic. But the creations of an artist with a powerful, intense mind transcend all earthly boundaries. The passion he puts into his art is discerned by the audience’s inner conscience though they cannot comprehend why it makes them happy. An ordinary artist would be well acclaimed, but an intense artist will be worshipped by them in their hearts.”
The imaginative mind of such an artist never sleeps. It makes him restless, drives him to meander upon untrodden lands. For his mind, the state closest to rest is languor, as it is incapable of true rest. Petty pastimes and physical strain help him tame the ever surging waves of imagination. Saradhi goes on walks along the sea shore and tends his garden when he is supposed to rest. He spends days, nights and twilights on the shore, seeking repose in its monotony. There is a whole chapter on his all night walk along the shore. It should be read in an utterly calm room. You can hear the sea roaring at midnight though you stay miles away from it. The novel has an immensely nocturnal feel to it, as several key scenes take place at night. Viswanatha writes the most lustrously original descriptions of nights in this novel. The hours of night are bewitched by Gods to house illusions. Night isn’t all darkness. It is an amalgamation of light and darkness, each trying to overpower the other. A fistful of both is present in an artist’s psyche. They constantly injure Saradhi in their perpetual wars.

There is another thread in the story involving the poetasters Ranganatham and Avadhani. Avadhani is an egoistic veteran poet, who claims to have improvised Valmiki and Kalidasa in his hackneyed creations. Ranganatham is a poet too. All he does is to write clusters of delicate words with little or no greatness. He thrives upon the adulation of his disciples. He is one of those unfortunate souls whose pleasure never reaches beyond his senses, Viswanatha writes. He also adds in satirical tones that his disciples attain such pleasure through their devotion for him. He is described as an embodiment of artificiality. His works strive hard to sound exotic and fantastic, as they are in the danger of being called too commonplace if set in an everyday world. (I saw a little seedling of Viswanatha’s idea of good fantasy in the book, being a great fan of the genre. He seems to suggest that the appeal of a work of fantasy should not lie in its outlandishness, but in its quality of making the reader relate himself with it.) If there is anything he ever loves with utmost earnestness, it is himself.They way he is described is wryly humorous, reflecting Viswanatha’s disgust for such people. We find ourselves loathing him from the depth of our hearts as the story progresses.

While speaking of these two poets, we understand how much the author worships originality, a rare flower that blooms but in the choicest of soils. His own prose and descriptions are perfectly antonymous to clichés and banality. There is the budding poet Kireeti, who has this spark within him. Saradhi and Umapathi discover him to be their kindred soul. He could be a faint reflection of Viswanatha in his younger days.

And there is the handsome adversary of Saradhi, Arjuna Rao, who is purposefully brought into the town to bring him down. While making accounts of his performance to contrast with that of Saradhi, Viswanatha tries to tell us what guards art from becoming a mere pretence. He speaks of the futility of magniloquence in conveying a rasa. Arjuna Rao is an actor of inferior quality whose appeal to the masses lies in his handsome visage and sonorous voice. His histrionics are crude and his depiction of a rasa is loud and garish. Precisely because of that, he becomes the demigod of the masses. Then there is the despicable Zamindar, the imperturbable king in chess, who causes major upheavals in the lives of Saradhi and Vasanthi.

Even the minor characters are so skilfully moulded in the novel that a new reader would refuse to believe that Viswanatha never wrote and rewrote his works like any other writer, but simply dictated them in an extemporaneous fountain of words. One thing Viswanatha never does is to judge his characters. He sympathises with Visalakshi, a woman of dubitable character and benevolent nature. He sympathises with the coquettish daughters of Ranganatham, Lalitha and Kamala, who fall prey to the lust of much older men because of their stupidity and unrestricted passions.

The novel attains surreal overtones after the introduction of the much talked about “theory of touch”. It flashes as a dismal lightning at the end of his well known novel Ekaveera. Terachiraju elaborates the theory upon a wider canvas. The senses of sight and sound solely help us recognize people. They define our likes and dislikes of people around us. Viswanatha proposes that it could be possible for some extraordinary beings to recognize the one meant for them through the sense of touch alone. Saradhi knows that Vasanthi is such an extraordinary being. Vasanthi conducts a series of unfortunate experiments to arrive at the conclusion. Kireeti’s remark that all her wisdom lies locked within her soul, and she has to stoop to mundane levels to realize it sounds true to us. Her reputation gets marred but she doesn’t care. All she wants is to prove to Saradhi that she is the one born for him and him alone. Her body decides Saradhi as her mate and she flinches at the touch of other men.

Saradhi discovers a checkmate, the impending doom of them both. He attempts to defy the truth and decouple her fecund life from the sere years left for him.
Viswanatha might have looked deeper into the mind of the queen in chess. It might have occurred to him that the queen chases the king unto the end not with a desire to slay him, but with a primordial longing to be upon the same square with him. There comes a juncture when all chessmen fall out of the game. The queen’s pull becomes even more fatal and the king’s shield gets weaker and weaker. He marches around the board to escape her but in vain. They finally meet upon a fateful square and die in each other’s embrace.
The last two pages are bewilderingly brief, I felt. Events that could span over two more chapters are condensed into a few ominous lines. Perhaps Viswanatha wrote those chapters after all. Not in the printed pages, but upon the trembling leaves of the reader’s mind. Yes, the silence that seeped through me after finishing the novel is that of my mind deciphering those wistful words.

Image Source: Abandoned Theatre by Lillian Lai,a digital artist from Deviant art.com.

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Terachiraju





Viswanatha Satyanarayana




About the Author(s)

అతిథి

పుస్తకం.నెట్ కు సభ్యులు కాని వారు పంపే వ్యాసాలు అతిథి గా ప్రచురింపబడతాయి.



9 Comments


  1. శ్రీకాంత్ గడ్డిపాటి.

    “A sudden, alarming realization dawns upon Vasanthi during the act that her admiration for Saradhi has begun to assume a different character. Something unfurls within her when she finds herself the object of the great actor’s on stage romance. Her chaste and artless mind erases the borders of reality and illusion at that moment. The fresh sensitivity turns her raw. Her body becomes pervious to the feelings rushing through her mind. She momentarily becomes a great actress. ”

    “He knows what great music should sound like and how feelings should be annealed into verses. He knows the assemblage of colours and fabrics that will accentuate the impact of a scene.”

    “He sympathises with the coquettish daughters of Ranganatham, Lalitha and Kamala, who fall prey to the lust of much older men because of their stupidity and unrestricted passions. ”

    పైన భావ ప్రకటనలు మీరు వ్రాసినదానిలో కొన్ని అద్భుతాలు మాత్రమే. చాల అద్భుతమైన ఆంగ్ల పద సముచ్చయముంది మీ వద్ద. వాటిని అత్యంత సుందరమైన పూగుఛ్ఛాలుగా అమర్చగలిగిన నేర్పూ ఉంది.
    ఎంతో కృషి చేసి ఉంటారు.
    విశ్వనాథ వారి నాడినీ పట్టుకున్నారు.
    నాకేమనిపిస్తోందంటే – ఆయన నవలలు ఆంగ్లంలో అనువదించాలంటే – మీరు పూర్తి న్యాయం చేయగలరు.


  2. c v Mohan rao

    Santwana Garu. What a beautiful review on such a tallest person of Telugu literature Kavi Samrat Viswanath Garu. The tone and tenor of the Writer is quite visible in your description We hv highest regard for mm Mythili ji and she is really blessed with an extraordinary lntellect daughter


  3. ns murty

    సాంత్వన గారూ,

    ఆధునిక తరంలో తెరచిరాజు వంటి నవలని చదవాలని అనుకునే వాళ్ళు ఉంటారని ఊహించడమే కష్టం. అలాంటిది, దానిమీద పరిచయం ఒక A great Surprise. మీరు దాన్ని చాలా serious గా తీసుకుని సమర్థవంతం గా నిర్వహించారు.
    హృదయపూర్వక అభినందనలు , ఆశీస్సులు


  4. kameswari yaddanapudi

    ఈ చిన్న వయసులో మంచి విమర్శ . అభినందనలు. కామేశ్వరి


  5. An extremely beatiful treatise to a renowned book . A well composed befitting review with artistic opulence of fine lines . A verse like write up ! Like mother Like daughter .Thanks .


  6. Suresh

    సాంత్వన గారు, What can I say about your review of such great classic, but to say.. I absolutely loved it! I guess, this is your second review and I must say…each time.. is better than the last


  7. Well written review of a novel written by a towering personality in Telugu literary world. It is evident that the reviewer did a painstaking homework in bringing the review out. It is not that common to find reviews of Telugu novels in English, but the young reviewer did a decent job.
    To understand Viswanatha’s writings is not that simple a task. The reader has to stop and think for a while and then proceed at several places. Generally his novels contain long-drawn discussions on certain things. Some times they occur between the characters as dialogues, and sometimes the author himself comes into picture to discuss difficult subjects. People with higher capabilities understand them only go through them.
    Mrs. Santwana Chimalamarri has acquired these capabilities beyond her age. The way she interpreted the title of the book is praiseworthy. She understood the mental frames of the two lead characters Saradhi and Vasanti quite well. I liked this very much:
    “The novel attains surreal overtones after the introduction of the much talked about “theory of touch”. It flashes as a dismal lightning at the end of his well known novel Ekaveera. Terachiraju elaborates the theory upon a wider canvas. The senses of sight and sound solely help us recognize people. They define our likes and dislikes of people around us. Viswanatha proposes that it could be possible for some extraordinary beings to recognize the one meant for them through the sense of touch alone. Saradhi knows that Vasanthi is such an extraordinary being. Vasanthi conducts a series of unfortunate experiments to arrive at the conclusion. Kireeti’s remark that all her wisdom lies locked within her soul, and she has to stoop to mundane levels to realize it sounds true to us. Her reputation gets marred but she doesn’t care. All she wants is to prove to Saradhi that she is the one born for him and him alone. Her body decides Saradhi as her mate and she flinches at the touch of other men.”
    I advise her to select simpler words for the rather uncommon words in her reviews or writings, for better understanding of Indian readers.
    I congratulate this budding writer for this review and wish many more from her.


  8. Lakshminarayana Murthy Ganti.

    An excellent review of a Novel -Terchiraju(Discovered King) -of a Jnanpeeth award winner. It is a tribute to the multifaceted talent of the great writer of Novels in the last century, “Kavi Samrat” Late Viswanadha Satyanarayana.At the end of the play the King will be help less and the queen checks him. Santwana Chimalmarri driven home her observations on all players on the board in a brilliant manner.The article no doubt prompts the readers to get the play and read it immediately even if it amounts to the burning the candle on both sides at long nights.Holding a candle to the genius of the poet laureate is an Herculean task and Santwana succeeded in it.



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