CiNaRe: A pioneer of ‘free verse’ in Telugu literature

Viswambhara, considered by many critics as an epic poem, fetched him the country’s highest literary award, the Jnanpith, in 1988

Published: 13th June 2017 04:28 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th June 2017 04:32 AM   |  A+A-

Dr Cingireddy Narayana Reddy (ANI)

Express News Service

HYDERABAD: Dr Cingireddy Narayana Reddy, better known as C Narayana Reddy, will be remembered as long as Telugu literature exists. He trod a new path in modern Telugu literature by experimenting with a new genre, free verse, in which the writer does not follow any set of established rules of prosody or grammar. Instead of rhymed verses, the writer opts for writing in free verse. 

One such poem penned by Reddy, popularly known as CiNaRe, is Viswambhara, which fetched him the country’s highest literary award, the Jnanpith, in 1988. Viswambhara is considered by many critics as an epic poem. Some even compared it to Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s La Divina Commedia (Divine Comedy). Their reason is that Viswambhara dealt with fundamental issues encountered by every human being in this universe such as free will, evil and redemption.

Illustration: Saai

Viswambhara projects man as the hero in this universe. The poem unfolds the journey of man from the primitive stage to the modern times. “Man is the protagonist of this poem. The vast epansive earth provides the stage and setting. The theme is man’s story which dispenses with names and dates. Nature offers the backdrop for the story. Powers of the mind motivate man to play several roles. Man dons various garbs _ Alexander, Christ, Ashoka, Socrates, the Buddha, Lincoln, Lenin, Marx and Gandhi,” says the prologue to this epic poem outlining the content of this literary marvel.

Interestingly, the story of the poem unfolds itself in a highly symbolic language through the eternal journey of man from the day of his creation to the present day. The dominant feature of this journey is man’s quest for understanding of the meaning of life and the nature of the Universe. This is carried out by man at three levels _ the artistic, the scientific and the spiritual.
Not only Viswambhara but also Reddy’s all other works are filled with poetic metaphors and are reflective of humanism and hope. 

A maestro groomed by legendary figures
Though Reddy pursued his education till graduation in Urdu medium, he did his post graduation in Telugu. His exposure to classical literature in Telugu and guidance given by well-known writers and poets during his college days helped him emerge as a towering personality in modern Telugu literature.

For instance, Reddy studied Telugu at a school in Sircilla under the guidance of Guru Satavadhani Seshadri Ramana Kavi of Machilipatnam. Later, he was groomed by  legendary poet Kavi Samrat Viswanatha Satyanarayana, the first principal of Karimnagar Government College (1959-61), a native of Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh. After his primary and secondary education, Narayana Reddy read books written by famous Telugu poets such as Gurram Jashua, Sri Sri and Devulapalli Krishna Sastry.

Reddy’s PhD thesis on modern Telugu poetry, ‘Adhunika Andhra Kavitvam - Sampradaayam - Prayogaalu’, which assessed the influence of tradition and experiment on modern Telugu poetry, has been a classic since its publication in 1967 and a part of curriculum for PG courses in Telugu literature in various universities.

Made his debut in film industry as a lyricist
C Narayana Reddy, who made his debut in Telugu film industry as a lyricist with the popular song, ‘Nannu Dochukonduvate Vannela Dorasani’ in NTR’s Gulebakavali Katha, later set the musical ball rolling. He was credited with having written more than 3,500 songs. Interestingly, he considered writing film songs as a part-time job.

Native district pays tribute 
The native place of noted Telugu literatteur and Jnanapith awardee C Narayana Reddy, Hanumanjipet in Rajanna-Sircilla district plunged into sorrow after hearing the news of the demise of its favourite son. Mamidipelli Rajanna, a poet and close associate of Narayana Reddy was at a loss after hearing the news of his demise.

“We have lost a great personality. He was very humane and had helping nature,” he said. He always used to ask people to respect parents as they are real gods. “He was close to his wife. When she was bed-ridden after a paralytic stroke he took care of her till her death,” he said. “Le le Lethavayasugala Chinadana Nuvu Lechi Lechi Itu Ravela song was penned by him for his wife and later turned into a Telugu film song

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