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Tales from the banks of River Krishna

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krishna-river-near-amaravathi

Krishna River near Amaravathi

Krishna thath par Amaravati Nagar; Jahan bambham bham bhole, Amarlingeshwar; Jhimir jhimir nadi bahe katha kahe re…’ – son of the soil, award-winning director Shyam Benegal’s 13-episode television series of short stories ‘Amaravati Ke Kahaniyan’ that was telecast during 80s on Doordarshan  begins with this catchy and earthy song that more or less defines the stories that are set on the banks of Krishna, in and around the famous Amaralingeswara Swamy Temple, and the Brahmin agraharams that are quintessentially native.

shyam-benegal

Shyam Benegal

The stories are chosen from Telugu Akademi Award winning series of 101 short stories penned by Satyam Sankaramanchi. Shyam Benegal chose 15 stories that he thought would suit for television adaptation and ensured they retain several aspects that are unique to the region, despite the series being made in Hindi; the dash of Telugu language, the costumes and above all the beautiful Krishna River (the shooting for the series was held entirely at Amaravati). The cast included seasoned stage actors that went on to become award-winning performers in Hindi cinema like Virendra Saxena, Jyothi Subash Chand, Ravi Kemmu, Raghuvir Yadav, Alka Shrivatsav, Sulbha Arya and a host of local actors like Pushpa, Suma and Anita Chowdhury.

The director does not remember, who introduced him to the stories, but he is happy he found them. He says, “They are wonderful stories with a great amount of charm. They are full of small and simple aspects of life that we rarely get to see  in cinema or on TV.
During the time (around the 80s), DD was telecasting ‘Mahabharat’ and here were the stories that had a certain amount of secular quality to them. Sankaramanchi was a fine writer with a lot of sense of humour. And his stories have the perfect structure of a beginning, middle and the much-needed twist towards the end. And, I chose stories that can be slotted into a 23-minute episode.”
Satyam Sankaramanchi  (3 March 1937 – 1987), a storyteller, born in the tiny village of Amaravati near Guntur City, in Andhra Pradesh, created a whole new world around the tiny village of Amaravati through his stories. His style is said to be similar to that of Russian writer Anton Chekhov.

 

amaravathi-kathalu

Sathyam Sankaramanchi’s award winning book of short stories

His story series was first published in Andhra Jyothy newspaper for two years, with a simple picture drawn by the artist, filmmaker Bapu and his associate, and writer Mullapudi Venkata Ramana wrote the foreword.

“He grew up in the area, and his stories that are primarily fictional give a sense of the place and character. And the Krishna River plays an important part of the stories, so you see the river in every episode. It was very interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed making it. The story provided us with a lot of insights.
amareswara-temple-amaravathi

Amareswara Temple, Amaravathi

 

It was a delightful world – the agraharam, classical South Indian Temple Township with the temple as its centre. I don’t think much has changed from the time Sankaramanchi wrote the stories to when we made the serial in 1985/86. It was later dubbed into Telugu for some channel,” shared Shyam Benegal, who was more than happy to share a few episodes of the serial on DVD.

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A still from the episode of the ‘Washerman and his Wife’

The stories like Durgamma High Class Hotel, the story of washer man and his wife, the bus from Amaravati to Guntur are all about common people and their life full of simple joys and problems. One cannot find a more perfect ode to Krishna – the sustainer of life.


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