Song's spirit abused

Song's spirit abused


ll hell has broken loose in revolutionary circles of Andhra Pradesh. Poets, balladeers, singers and composers of the red hue tradition and their admirers are scandalized at the heresy committed. A song that inspired thousands of youngsters into revolting against the system and take up arms to bring about change, a song that gave birth to a new genre of literature, has been picturised in the latest Telugu block-buster film Magadheera as an item song with a suggestive meaning.

Based in folklore, the Telugu song em pilloda eldam vastava? literally meaning “Hey guy, will you come? Let's go” is an invitation to a young man to see for himself the injustice and inequality around him, of the relations between the rich and poor, the landlord and the bonded servant, the oppressor and the oppressed. It invokes an  imagery of the weak and the powerful through several local, common examples like the lamb and tiger and urges the youngster not to take it lying down and to fight back. This invite to roll out a revolution has been turned into an invitation of lust in Maghadheera.

Stage a protest

An infuriated Vangapandu Prasada Rao, a 65-year old balladeer who penned the song in 1970s following the Naxalbari movement, traveled all the way from Parvatipuram in Srikakulam, the northern-most district of the state, to Hyderabad to stage a protest in front of the house of Allu Arvind, the producer of Magadheera, demanding that the song be removed and that he apologise for insulting a people’s movement and all those who had sacrificed their life, future and family for an ideal. Will you not be deeply wounded if say Annamayyas (legendary Telugu-poet-composer-singer who was a bhakta of Lord Venkateswara) song is picturised on a frolicking Menaka? asked an indignant Vangapandu. Indeed, one would be scandalized. The song em pilloda was a precursor to the formation of the Peoples War Group. In those heady days of post-Naxalbari and Srikakulam revolts, this song perhaps set off a Cultural Revolution and gave birth to a genre of literature that has influenced every aspect of creative thought and expression in Telugu.

Vangapandu corrects me. Not just in Telugu. Em pilloda was translated into 18 languages and 60-70 dialects of tribals wherever people rose in revolt against oppression across India. The song was the anthem of the Indian revolutionary movement, which lighted the path, urging the youth to take it.

It encapsulated the spirit of the movement and formed the starting point of several other movements spawned by the Naxalbari/ Srikakulam movements such as Dalit, Girijan and social justice/ caste movements.