Bellari Raghava

Bellari Raghava

Tadpatri Raghavacharlu, popularly known as Bellary Raghava was a renowned actor. He was born on 2 August 1880 in a Telugu Brahmin family. He recevived his early education at Bellary and later graduated in law from the Madras University.

His uncle Dharmavaram Ramakrishnamachari, who was a pioneering dramatist in Telugu, initiated him on the stage. He was also associated with another great dramatist, kolachalam Srinivasa Rao. An accomplished actor of extra-ordinary caliber he is known for supreme mastery of expression. Expressive eyes set in a mobile face, he could modulate his visage and resonant voice to suit the emotion appropriate to any role, from that of a vidudhaka to a maharaja. He was equally at home in plays in English, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi; his three main centers of activity were Bellary, Bangalore and Madras.

At Bangalore he founded the Amateur Dramatic Association of Bangalore in 1909. He advocated and developed the naturalistic style in acting. He was very particular that women should always play the female roles on the stage. In 1927 he went to England and took part in English dramas with Laurance Olivier and Charles Laughton. On his return to India he encouraged playwrights to set aside the classical style and to take to naturalistic plays. Instead of protracted declamations and conversations, he advocated short dialogues coupled with appropriated gestures. His presentation of Tappevaridi by Rajamannar in 1930 in Madras was hailed by many as a momentous event heralding a new era. Among his admirers were Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and Bernard Shaw.

The arrival of the movies was a blow to the promise of a modern theater that Raghava envisaged. He tried his hand at acting in films but this satisfied neither him nor his audience. Besides being a versatile actor, he was also a busy lawyer and an ardent social worker. All his earnings were spent in development of the art that was his passion and for the upliftment of the down-trodden. As a man he was incomparable. After doing yeoman service to the cause of the Indian theater he passed away on 17 April 1946.


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