Variety

Covid-hit Surabhi theatre group stages a comeback

K V Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on July 09, 2021

Surabhi, the family-run theatre group, is a household name in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana

The 135-year-old family-run troupe to perform again after a long hiatus

For Surabhi, the family-run 135-year-old theatre group that is a household name in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, it has been a bleak year and a half. The stage is their livelihood, and for too long the curtains had been down on their act. But, finally, the group is staging a comeback.

With the Covid-19 cases coming down and lockdown restrictions getting relaxed, the troupe is finally performing again. The Telangana government has given the group a few opportunities to stage their shows.

“In the next four days, they will be staging Maya Bazar, Bala Nagamma, Bhakta Prahlada and Srinivasa Kalyanam,” an official of the Department of Culture said.

“All of us depend on the stage to earn our livelihood. We will continue the 135-year-old legacy despite all odds,” R Venugopala Rao, Secretary of Sri Vinayaka Natya Mandali, one of the four constituents of the Surabhi group, told BusinessLine.

As he gets ready for the maiden show that they are playing after the pandemic, he shares how there were days when the 50 odd members of the group were left with no food. “We depended on non-governmental organisations and the Cultural Department of Telangana to carry on,” he says.

A Surabhi play would cost ₹15,000 for the organisers, if played at their venue. “It will cost us more if we go to a third party location,” he said. Besides Vinayaka Natya Mandali, the three other constituents in the group that stage the shows are Bhanodaya, Sarada Vijaya and Vijaya Bharati Natya Mandalis. Mostly drawn from mythologies, the shows are known for their enthralling ‘tricks’ that are woven into the stories.

The youngest actor in the family is aged three years, while the oldest is 73-year-old, donning different roles in different plays with aplomb.

Part of Telugu culture

Established at Surabhi village in Kadapa district in 1885, the Surabhi group has become part of Telugu culture. It even inspired several Telugu film directors, who took plots and scenes from some of their plays.

Although patronage of their performances is coming down, the group is determined that the show must go on.

Published on July 08, 2021

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