HYDERABAD: After dedicating 45 years of his life to uplifting the ethos of Telangana’s traditional folklore oggu katha, 80-year-old Oggari Ailaiah was recently awarded the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Amrit Award. Oggari comes from a very humble family of Kurama, who have been performing oggu katha for generations.
Speaking to The New Indian Express, he said he had been associated with the folklore all his life. “I have seen my grandfather perform in childhood. My father was also a folklore artist. I started assisting him in his performances when I was 15. Then I also started performing in temples at Gangadhara village.”
“At that time, Midde Ramulu was a well-known oggu katha artist. He performed along with a troupe of five artists. Ramulu spotted me during one of my performances at Raja Rajeshwari temple in Vemulawada. He asked me to join his troupe. Ever since, we have performed together in several States across the country,” he said.
The troupe also performed at the third Telugu Mahasabha held in Mauritius in the 1990s. “We have performed in temples, Jataras, and public meetings. Our performances were watched by many eminent personalities like Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, PV Narsimha Rao, and others in the 1980s,” he added.
Reminiscing one of his fond memories, he said, “In the 1990s, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was to attend a public meeting in Karimnagar. The scheduled time for her visit was around 3 pm, but she arrived at 10 pm. After seeing thousands of people who had been waiting for her for hours, surprised Indira asked the organisers how they were able to retain the crowd for so long. It was us who kept the people hooked and entertained.”