Saturday, 16 May 2015

Book Review of Coolie the Sovereign by T. Sai Chandramouli

Bhimanna, Dr Boyi. Coolie the Sovereign, translated by Dr T. S. Chandra Mouli. Hyderabad: Deepti Technicolour, 2012. Pages 102,
Coolie, the Sovereign (Kuuli Raju) is a political play written by Padmabhuashan Dr Boyi Bhimanna and translated into English by T. Sai Chandramouli. Dr Bhimanna is a great literary figure in Telugu literary firmament. His contribution to the literature especially Telugu is immense and highly liked. His creative genius works include; Paleru, Adikavi, Valmiki, Veda Vyasuda, Raja Vaishtam, Raabhilu, Gudeselu Kaalipothunnaiju etc. They have a very good impact on Telugu speaking people. His extraordinary genius can also be measured in his metrical poetry, lyrics, free verse, drama and literary criticism. He is considered as a socialist because throughout his life he wrote for the upliftment of Dalit of his region. He has dedicated the play to Sri Vemula Kurmayya Garu who was the then Minister in composite Madras state.
          Dr T. Sai Chandramouli is a well known figure in the literary in the world. Hailing from Hyderabad, he is a poet, translator and critics who have published several anthologies and poetry collections. He has translated many Telugu fiction and poetry which have extensively published.  His translation of Coolie, the Sovereign (Kuuli Raju) into English is a great tribute to the Telugu legend, Padmabhushan Dr. Boyi Bhimanna.
        Coolie, the Sovereign (Kuuli Raju) is a political play but it can also be termed as social play as it deals with the upliftment of the most marginalised class, Coolie. Dr Bhimanna wrote the play in 1942 and staged it with the title ‘Kashta Jeevi.’ It was also serialized in the weekly of the time, ‘Navajeevan.’ After that it went for modification many times and at it acquired an absolute from with the title ‘Kuuli Raju.’ It is considered as a reputed play which was published in 1948 in the regional language, Telugu and now it has been translated into English by Dr Chandramouli.
         Dr Bhimanna was deeply involved in the upliftment of Dalits and this concern of his is reflected in all his mythological and social dramas. Being a reformist, he was greatly inspired by the views of Mahatma Gandhi that a Dalit lady should be the President of India to substantiate the term ‘freedom.’ This also means that he was greatly influenced by the philosophies of Marx and Lenin.
        Dr Bhimanna was a firm believer of social realism which he felt that only be possible when the Coolie acquire power to govern. The play, Coolie, the Sovereign (Kuuli Raju) depicts the struggle between ‘the haves’ and ‘the haves not’ as on one side it is the exploiters, the landlord and their cronies and on the other side it is the marginalised class, the agricultural labourers who subsist with meagre earnings. So these two are the warring group and their struggle can be termed as ‘dharma yuddham’ in Hindi.
        Madhumurthy is the male-protagonist of the play, who after the completion of his studies comes to the village and is shocked to know the travails of the working class to which he belong. The two female protagonist characters, Paramjyothi and Mithra tell him how the working class are being exploited. These two female characters are lifelong strong support to him in his movement against their exploitation. Madhumurthy receive a very good job opportunity in the Government sector but he forgoes this golden offer and instead of it devotes his life for the welfare of the coolies.
        The Coolie Union realized that the only medium to get justice and end all sufferings is to clinch power to govern. For this they contested Election and were fortunate to win it. Premkumara, the landlord’s son who was of progressive nature also supported them raising his voice against his own father. After their triumph, the young lady, Paramjyothi was elected as President of free India. With this the welfare of the downtrodden & marginalised class began and the lands of the landlord were given to them.
        This drama gives a very moral message to the society which is ‘strength lies in unity.’ It reflects that if all the exploited classes stand united and fight against tyranny they win surely wins and can also capture power and govern. Though it is a social and political drama but we can also call it as a poetic play. Although it is not like T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral but the playwright has used poetry at many occasion to express the feelings and attitudes of the characters and also the situations. This is the traditional folk art form of Telugu alone called as burrakatha. The English version, Coolie, the Sovereign contains all ornaments of Kuuli Raju in terms of crisp dialogue, songs, prayers, sloganeering, metered poems, love lyrics and bhajans etc. It seems to be a difficult task for the translator to carry all these traditional Telugu elements into an alien language, English. Kudos goes to him to overtake such a tough venture.
         The play has been divided into 12 Acts depicting the great struggle of the marginalised sections of the society in a heroic way. By translating it, he has tried to retain some original expression in Telugu, which is the source language of the play. As he says:
                    “Retention of the original flavour of the source text is an
                      essential feature of any translation. Literary translation
                      differs from translation of documents. Creativity, an asset
                      an impediment, aided by intuition enables a translator
                      render justice to task undertaken.”
Hence in this way the pain taken by the translator is phenomenal. And so celebrating the Hundred and second birth anniversary of Dr Boyi Bhimanna, it is indeed a great tribute to him by T. Sai Chandramouli who has launched the English version of Kuuli Raju. It is a must read play for people interested in Subaltern or Dalit literature.

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