Pithapuram: A veteran progressive writer, late Avantsa Somasundaram, who had been inspired by eminent poet Devulapalli Krishna Sastry, used words as weapons to deride the despotic rule of the erstwhile Nizam, and boldly described his style as “it is my language and it is my style which is inherent in my blood.” At the height of the armed rebellion in Telangana, he lent literary support to it.
Dignity in subject presentation, authority in criticism, and accuracy in delivery of the idea were among his hallmarks. Works of poets that became objects of criticism by Somasundaram later stood out as exemplary because of the quality of criticism they were subjected to. He was born in Sankhavaram, near the pilgrim center of Annavaram, on November 18, 1924. His parents were Venkayamma and Kaluri Suryaprakasa Rao.
However, Venkayamma’s younger sister adopted him as she was issueless. Somasundaram inherited literary genius from his mother, which he fondly affirmed. At the tender age of 4, he learnt Potana’s Bhagavatam, Krishna Satakam, Krishna Leelalu and Rukmini Kalyanam from his mother.
This held him in good stead, while lending beauty to his poetry. He pursued his education in Pithapuram. He graduated from PR College, Kakinada in 1943. At the end of a glorious literary career, the nonagenarian poet left for heavenly abode on August 12, 2016.
Somasundaram produced his maiden work when he was barely 13. In 1942, he joined the Quit India Movement, responding to a call given by Mahatma Gandhi. When he turned 18, he joined the Communist Party of India (CPI) and worked as an ordinary activist. He spent five and half years in sub-jail at Tuni from 1947 for his involvement in various cases. He was subjected to house arrest for six months.
During the Quit India Movement, he sustained critical injuries when the police lathi-charged the nationalists. Thereafter, his works reflected Communist ideology to a large extent. Kashmeeram Melukondi and Taratamyam are some of the works that stand testimony to his progressive literature.
His magnum opus Vajrayudham eulogising the Armed Rebellion of Telangana, sent shivers down the spine of the then Nizam ruler. His poem Banisala Dandayatra was akin to a volley of cannon balls fired at the Nizam. Till 1950, there were numerous reviews conducted on Vajrayudham. The Nizam Government banned the book and also the Composite Madras State (February 6, 1950).
If students were found in possession of the book, the police used to cane them. In 1956, the ban on the book was lifted with the intervention of noted Communist leader Puchhalapalli Sundaraiah.
Subsequently, the Kakatiya University prescribed Vajrayudham as a textbook for its students for four years. Somasundaram’s poetry highlighted every incident that had taken place during 1945-47 as part of the armed struggle for the liberation of Telangana.
Doddi Komarayya attained martyrdom in the firing ordered by the mother of the Deshmukh of Visnuru–Janakamma. An incensed Somasundaram gave vent to his anger through the poem Khabaddaar.
Somasundaram tried his hand in running a magazine as well. He, along with his friends, ran a literary magazine titled Kalakeli from 1968 to 1975 with the help of friends. But, he had to close it down as it incurred losses. Out of his love for the journal, he titled his house as Kalakeli Nilayam.
He opines that for any ‘ism’ there should be two qualities–sincerity and purity of the poetry. His contemporaries say that there is no poet greater than Somasundaram who was fondly called as “Sosu”. His followers opine that he did not get his due. Many poets opine that his biographical work Kalalu Kanneellu (The dreams and tears) should have won the Kendra Sahitya Akademy Award.
Commenting on this, Sosu would laugh it off saying, “There is no yardstick on how much recognition I should get. Everybody recognises me. Even if some do not recognize, he has little to do.” Advising the upcoming generation of poets, he used to say, “A poet should read ten times more than a person of average intelligence.
The poet should study Maha Bharatam at least to some extent. They should read the works of Tikkana, Srinadha and Allasani Peddana. I have read Amukta Malyada very deeply. But all cannot do it. I have spent some days with the work since I have had no other avocation. They should also read English poetry.”
“The inspiration that I derived took birth from my personality,” he said, adding that he took to poetry not expecting any considerations. Writing poetry is his way of life. “My family members know how happy I would feel after penning my work.
I write poetry for the pleasure of it,” he used to observe. During his last days, when his hands did not cooperate with him in writing poetry, he would dictate it to others to write poetry. Because of poor eyesight, when he could not read poetry, he derived pleasure by listening to others read poetry.
Till he breathed his last, he was very independent. In 1979, he was awarded the Soviet Land Nehru Award, Raja-Lakshmi Award, Pratibha Award by Potti Sriramulu Telugu University and an honorary doctorate. He was honoured with the NTR National Award in 2008. He was also the recipient of Lok Nayak Award and NTR Literary Award. Besides, he had also received 25 other awards.
He authored his biography in two parts titled – Kalalu Kanneellu (Dreams and Tears) and Mullu Poolu (Thorns and Flowers). His assistants, Meka Manmadha Rao and Usha documented, it when Sosu dictated it to them.
The last publication of Sosu was Sarat Chandrika – a compilation of his works on great revolutionary poet Srisri. He dedicated it to Mandali Buddha Prasad, deputy speaker of the State Legislative Assembly on the occasion of the latter’s Shashtyabdi celebrations.
Somasundar constituted a literary trust and spent the money he earned by way of awards for literary activities. He encouraged popular poets by honouring them with awards since 2000. The awards are given for the best poem, the best verse, best literary criticism, best poetry and so on. He gave awards to many literary giants in the name of Krishnasastry, Ramsha and Gurajada.
His works include Vajrayudham, Kaahalai, Godavari Jala Pralayam, Raktakshi, Satchitanandam, Megharanjani, Somarasam, Minugurulu, Ashala Kireetam, Vennela Konaseema, Ralina Mutyalu, Maa Vooru Ma arindi, Agataniki Subharambham. His major works include – Akshaya Tarangini, Kaalam Veelunama, Mukta Chaya and Arache Loyalu.
Other works include – Kshitija Rekhalu, Marxism, Okka Kondalo Veyi Shilpalu, Angla Seemalo Aamani Veenalu, Gandha Maadanam, Raksha Rekha and Chetavani.
By Saride Nageswara Rao