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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Chiranjeevi brings back history of freedom struggle ~ Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy

We read in our books ‘the uprising of 1857’ not as a National movement, not as a freedom struggle but as sepoy mutiny, an uprising by a group of soldiers.  .. .. and then read that Gandhiji  [Nehruji and Congressmen] got us freedom without spilling blood !! ~ British were so kind and noble that they gave freedom on a platter !!

Perhaps sons of cow belt soil would remember the movie  - Mangal Pandey - The Rising (The Rising - Ballad Of Mangal Pandey)  and the hero of the movie.   .. .. .. he was not the first man though, and Uprising – the National struggle of 1857 was not the first fight against British East India Company.  Down under, we have read about the exploit of Poligars (Nayakars) – the name and exploits became legendary more because of the 1959 tamil film “Veerapandiya Kattabomman”  written by Sakthi T. K. Krishnasamy and directed by B. R. Panthulu. Everybody aspiring to become an actor would try to repeat those immortal dialogues uttered by Sivaji Ganesan.  There have been many rulers in this part of land, around the 15th  century it was Pandyan dynasty, then Nayakas,  as the Vijayanagara Telugus were called. Madura was fortified Nayakas; the constitution of the Polygars.  Among the many, the man who fought 304 years ago (1st Sept 1715) “Puli thevar” and his hq  Nelkattum Seval would stand out ! .. rather than reading the Battle of Plassey, we should have,  in our schools and colleges  read the real-life stories of  Pulithevan, Veerapandiya Kattabomman,  Veeran Azhagu Muthukone to later day freedom fighters like VoC, Vanchinathan, Barathiyar, Subrahmanya Siva and many many more ! ~ and sadly, my thoughts too were constrained with people from Tinnevely and down South .. there had been many more patriots who fought against the savage British.

How well do you know ? - Konidela Siva Sankara Vara Prasad, who was  Minister of State with independent charge for the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India for a couple of years.  Chennai and tinseldom is where he grew early.    He is one of the co-owners of the Indian Super League club Kerala Blasters FC.  Sure one would not need any clues to guess !  ~  it is actor Chiranjeevi.

Around 25 years ago or so, I saw Mutha mestri in Kakinada starring Chiru, Meena & Roja.  I was not too impressed but kept mum as my good colleague was a great fan of him and even his walking and other moments seemed to imitate and remind me of Chiru.   At that time -  Gharana Mogudu, directed by K. Raghavendra Rao, was a super hit and was touted as  the first Telugu film to gross over 10 crore at the box office. It made Chiranjeevi the highest-paid actor in India at the time catapulting him to the cover pages of national weekly magazines in India.  Interestingly, in 2002, Chiranjeevi was given the Samman Award for the Highest Income Tax Payer for the 1999–2000 assessment year by the Minister of State for Finance.. .. no post on Chiranjeevi but on his upcoming film trailer of which is now trending in You Tube and social media. 

The film  also stars Amitabh Bachchan and Vijay Sethupathi,  due to be released on October 2, 2019   ~ the  trailer of Telugu superstar Chiranjeevi’s multi-lingual period film Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy released on Wednesday evening to much fanfare, promising an epic war film on the scale of the Baahubali series. Opening with an insight into the background of Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy who led a rebellion against the British East India Company, the film terms him ‘a monk’, ‘a warrior’, ‘not a common person’, until the presence of Amitabh Bachchan who declares that this is India’s first war for freedom. History has it that Narasimha Reddy led a peasant uprising in Kurnool in the 1840s, much before Sepoy Mutiny in 1857. Tamannaah Bhatia and Nayanthara both appear in the trailer as well, vying for the warrior’s affection, but the majority of the footage is dedicated to impressive action sequences and depictions of brutality by the British against the villagers, which incites Reddy to start a war.

Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, produced by Ram Charan under Konidela Productions, is one of the biggest Tollywood films. Touted to be produced on a huge budget of Rs 200 crore, the film starring Chiranjeevi, Amitabh Bachchan and Nayanthara is directed by Surender Reddy.  The teaser launch of Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, the latest movie of one of the biggest stars of Telugu cinema, Chiranjeevi was a grand affair. The trailer was released in five different languages.   

Here is something on the real hero on whom the film is based.  Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy  was at the heart of a rebellion in 1846, where 5000 peasants rose up against the British East India Company (EIC) in Kurnool district, Andhra Pradesh, then in Madras Presidency. They were protesting changes to the traditional agrarian system introduced by the British in the first half of the nineteenth century. Those changes, which included the introduction of the ryotwari system and other attempts to maximize revenue impacted lower-status cultivators by depleting their crops and leaving them impoverished.

The father of Narasimha Reddy was related to the Polygar family of Uyyalawada in Koilkuntla taluk, Kurnool district, and had married two daughters of the Polygar of Nossam. He had three sons, of whom Naramsimha was the youngest.  The people by the wiles of British East India Co  were dispossessed of their lands. Many landowners were jailed too.  As the old order collapsed into disarray, the once-authoritative Polygars, including Narasimha Reddy, became the focus of attention from sufferers, whose pleas fell on deaf British ears. The Polygars mobilized the peasants and fought against the invaders who had no right to take away lands.

The Rayalaseema region had been transferred to the British by the Nizam and Reddy refused pay taxes directly to the British. [sounds another Kattabomman !]  On 10 June 1846 he raided the treasury at Koilakuntla and marched towards Kambham, Andhra Pradesh (Prakasam District).  When he killed a Govt official,   Collector Thomas Monroe issued orders to arrest him. The EIC put a price on his head Rs. 5000 and Rs. 10,000 for his head.

Reddy, with his army mounted a serious attack on the British forces camped at Giddaluru on 23 July 1846 and defeated them. Unable to capture him, the British deceptively imprisoned his family at Kadapa. Narasimha Reddy moved to Nallamala forest to save his family but the British forces were tipped off by someone about the hideout of Mr. Reddy. To avoid being caught by the British in the Nallamala area, Narasimha Reddy returned to Koilkuntla area and hid in Jagannatha Konda. Unable to be at large for a long period, Reddy was caught as the army moved in upon a tip-off and arrested him and his followers at mid night of 6 October 1846. The EIC put heavy fetters on him and paraded him right in the streets of Koilkuntla before his people with blood-stained clothes so that it would be a warning to them. Around 112 of his followers were arrested and convicted for 5 to 14 years and some of them were jailed in Andaman. The special commissioner of Kadapa conducted the trial and Narasimha Reddy was charged with revolt, murder and being a dacoit and was convicted on all charges. He was publicly hanged on 22 Feb 1847, on the banks of nearby river in the presence of Collector Kokcrane. His head was kept on the fort wall in public view for 30 years from 1847 to 1877 to instill fear in the people so that another rebellion won’t be tried by others against the British.

Thus a local who fought for the rights of peasants was   dubbed as a murderer and robber and, at last, was mercilessly killed by the early British rulers. His revolt in India against the British occupation was 10 years earlier than India’s First War of Independence of 1857.  Now this epic historic story is being made as a feature film for the prestigious 151st film of Megastar Chiranjeevi. The story has been penned down by Sai Madhav Burra, Vema Reddy and Paruchuri brother on Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy who bared his chest and dared the British.

I would love to see the movie for the theme itself ~ though some could immediately write that there has been some distortion of facts, as this happens often with movies. Look forward to the movie ~ would happily get guided by my Telugu sotharalu!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
18th Sept. 2019.

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