HYDERABAD: Having struggled to gain recognition in a male-dominated sphere, renowned Telugu writer P Lalitha Kumari aka Volga, has now been selected for the prestigious Sahitya Academy Award for her short story compilation Vimukta Kadha Samputi, for the year 2015. Writer, feminist, idealist, – Volga has inspired hundreds of women over a glittering career spanning nearly three decades. The Guntur-born 65-year postgraduate in Telugu literature from Andhra University taught the same for a few years before she started her journey as a writer.
Volga, who also writes scripts for films, speaks about the challenges women face today, her own struggle with discrimination and how she defied her critics to get to where she is today.
Over the years, have you noticed a change in the way women are treated? Do you think men and women are treated much more equally now?
In some areas, women’s lives have changed. They are coming out, being independent and achieving so many things. But the violence against them is not decreasing. In fact, it is increasing, because for the rest of the society, it is a new phenomenon. For centuries, it has been said that women are submissive and must behave in a certain way. Now that suddenly women are coming out and achieving so much, men are really angry. They feel that women are occupying their space. For a few decades, this violence will continue. After that men will also understand that women are competent in every area, and then I hope things will settle down.
You had also written stories in cinema too, including feature films. Did you face obstacles while writing for films?
None. In the movie industry, I wrote scripts along with a team. Everybody worked together on a series of stories for children’s films. People with different ideas and wavelengths worked together, which is why I didn’t face any obstacles here.
What is your opinion on the characters being written for women in Telugu cinema today?
What characters? On-screen, we only see bodies, no characters. I’ve always criticised such commercial cinema. This is why we try to make different films, but to release them in the commercial space is difficult for us.
How about the challenges in your journey as a feminist writer in a male dominated society?
In the beginning, people were angry with my writing. They felt that I was destroying the instituion of family and marriage. They were critical of my work. My novel Sweccha in 1987 was the topic of discussion in every town for one and a half years. My personal life was also discussed along with the novel. When men write, they write objectively. And yet, the critics appreciate their objectivity. But when women write, critics always want to see the woman’s personal life in their writing. That situation also arose in my case. Over a period of time, with my consistent writing, patience and persistence, slowly critics and readers started taking my work seriously. It took many years for them to understand and appreciate my writing and to get approval from various sections of society.
Do you think such discrimination between male and female writers continues to exist?
Of course. Even today, such discrimination exists as men usually don’t want to accept that women are intellectual. Women’s intellectual capacity is always underestimated.
What are your future plans?
I love writing and will continue to do so. I’m now writing a novel which is being serialised on an e-magazine called Saaranga. The name of the novel is Gamaname Gamyam, it is a historic novel during the period between 1910 and 1964. It speaks about women’s leadership in various movements in the last 50 years, political participation, discrimination etc.