Telangana’s new cultural revivalist: Public administrator by profession, poet by passion

Unassuming and low profile, Hari is a reflection of what modern day aspiring writers want to become
Telangana’s new cultural revivalist: Public administrator by profession, poet by passion
Telangana’s new cultural revivalist: Public administrator by profession, poet by passion
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Telangana, India’s youngest state has a glowing past when it comes to literary achievements. Some of the finest writers, scholars and literary thinkers have emerged from that little corner of South India. However, all that seems to be a forgotten episode now.

During the Chief ministership of N T Rama Rao, the Sahitya Academy was dissolved. Scores of writers were left clueless, discouraged and to fend for themselves. Many migrated to neighboring states of Karnataka where writers are celebrated even today and to Tamil Nadu to make a living writing for films or radio.

Over the last few decades, the literary life and culture of the Telugus gradually eroded. It was impossible to count even a handful of names worth any national importance in the field of Telugu writing and literature. However, the formation of Telangana state came with its own revolutionary zeal. Several writers and poets took up the pen to voice their ideology and wrote some of the most profound literature ever written in modern times.

Among one of those firebrand writers is Maamidi Harikrishna. Unassuming and low profile, Hari is a reflection of what modern day aspiring writers want to become.

Harikrishna was born Shayampet village near Warangal. His mother Swarajyam was a housewife and father Sudarshan was a certified Ayurvedic medical practitioner. Harikrishna’s grandfather Maamidi Venkatarajam was popular as ‘Bungalow Venkatarajam’ in the village as he was the first to build a bungalow.

The family was also the first to bring radio to their village and commute using a cycle. Harikrishna’s father graduated from the Ananthalakshmi Ayurveda Vidyalayam and was the most sought after doctor in and around those geographical regions. As a medical officer he would travel to nearby regions and return with magazines, journals and newspapers for his wife Swarajyam. It was this reading interest that developed and grew gradually.

Harikrishna being the oldest of four children, was mentored into his reading habits by his mother. Local journals like Chandamama and Balamitra soon became Harikrishna’s best friends. He explored art history, world poetry, philosophy and cinema. The reading habits his mother inculcated in him were to pay off in his later years.

Harikrishna finished his schooling and graduated in economics, public administration and political science from Kakatiya University in 1990. He also studied a B.Ed and M.Ed course from the same in the following years. He was the state first rank holder in M Ed and LAWCET. He earned a Masters in Psychology from the Osmania University in Hyderabad.

He was barely twenty-two when his mother passed away. He had just finished college and was looking for jobs. The responsibility of taking care of his two younger sisters and a younger brother fell on his fragile shoulders. But these times of crisis and personal trauma and loss made him a stronger person. Harikrishna not only educated all his siblings but also settled them into comfortable married lives in the following years. All along he kept his love for books and literature alive.

Even while holding a government job he took time out to fulfill his personal passion. If his office timings ended only by night, he would take five hours after ten thirty in the night to pursue his passion of writing poetry, reviews and other articles.

As a fruit of many years of literally burning the midnight oil, Harikrishna has a commendable body of work to his credit. He has published more than 200 poems and short stories in Telugu in various newspaper and magazines. His poem ‘Okaanoka Yoga Srushti Kosam’ (For creation of a new era) won the Best Poem Award on the eve of Ugadi in 1994. Several other poems like ‘Panduga’, ‘Ooru Bathka Botaandi’ and others won numerous awards over the years.

(Harikrishna with his anthology Toli Poddu)

In addition to writing about the romance of rural Telangana, the local culture, customs and people, Harikrishna’s poetry also explores the social issues of the times and place he lives in. His poem ‘Seetha Kunta’ published by the American Telugu Association highlighted the and disappearance of tanks and lakes in Telangana State. He has also invented and introduced a new form of poetry called ‘Fusion Shayaree’ which cleverly combines the Telugu and Daccani Urdu dialects.

‘The Indian Literature’ the famous literary journal published by the Kendra Sahitya Akademi, india’s most prestigious body for literature applauded Harikrishna’s poems as those  “producing introspective life portrayals”.  He has also co-edited several anthologies of poems. ‘Telangana Kavitha’ published in 2006 was the first of its kind effort in compiling the works of Telangana Poets.

‘Chigurantha Aasha’  and ‘Aasha Deepam’ in 2014 was an anthology of seventy women poets and fifty nine short stories by women writers on the theme of AIDS awareness. His anthologies ‘Thangedu Vanam’ explored the famous Thangedu flowers celebrated in the local Bonalu festival of Telangana. This scale of literary activity was never before seen in the Telangana region. Harikrishna is also an ace translator. He has translated the biography of Dada Saheb Phalke for the National Book Trust, New Delhi on the eve of Indian cinema’s centenary celebrations. His latest is a fine translation of Omar Khayyam’s Rubayat.

(Harikrishna's anthology of women poets on the theme of AIDS awareness)

Harikrishna has also been instrumental in organizing many poetry festivals in Hyderabad. The entire Daccani Urdu writing league, which was slowly fading due to lack of patronage, has been infused with a new energy, thanks to the efforts Harikrishna has taken. A marathon ten day Urdu Shayari saw the best of Hyderabadi poets gather under one umbrella.

While poetry and literature are clearly his first love, his writing didn’t stop him from venturing into television and cinema. Among the most popular ones are TV shows like ‘Top 100 Movies’ that covered the best of Telugu cinema, ‘Hollywood 360’ covering the latest news and movies of Hollywood and many more. The programmes he has written for television like Formula No. 1, Frame 2 Frame,

Bombay Talkies, Director's Movie, Zoom Barabar Zoom, Telugu Cinemalalo Vanita, 100 Yella Bharatiya Cinema, Super Hit Cinema and Ruler have made Harikrishna a household name among lakhs of television viewers and cinema lovers in Telangana.

In addition to these programmes he has also written many popular TV game shows and documentaries. The most popular among the documentaries are ‘Shatabdi Charitram’ on the hundred years of indian cinema and biographical films on the famous Jnanpeeth Awardees Ravuri Bharadwaj and C Narayana Reddy. In 2009 Harikrishna received the prestigious Nandi Award for being the best film critic.  He has been honoured with several other local awards which sit lightly on his shoulders.

(Harikrishna getting the Nandi Award in 2009 for being the best film critic)

Harikrishna has been in the government service in various designations for the last eighteen years. He is currently working as the director of the department of culture in the Telangana government. With him around, the state of Telangana must feel extremely fortunate. Like after a long period of drought, the freshness and life rainfalls bring to a parched land, Harikrishna’s cultural activism has reinvigorated and revitalized the entire cultural scene in that state.

How much can a person achieve in one lifetime? To what extent can one go to pursue his or her passions? In the past India has seen cultural activists like the great Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Pupul Jayakar, Rukminidevi Arundale who revived various traditions like arts and crafts, textiles and classical dance.  Harikrishna is a shining example of someone in a similar path in modern times. If every state had a cultural enthusiast like him, one can be sure the country would prosper multifold. Shy, unassuming and soft-spoken, like a blue-blooded Telanganite, Harikrishna is not the kind to go around marketing himself or his work.

He is one of those who believe in doing good work silently and spreading the positive energy that inspires many around. A writer, poet, literary enthusiast, film critic and historian, painter and illustrator, musician, director and the many Avatars he takes depending on his moods and inspirations, Harikrishna is a proud son of the soil whose name will go down in modern Indian history as a major cultural revivalist from Telangana. One wishes more power to him and his great work.

Images Courtesy: PT collection, Anant Reddy, Krishnamurthy

(Veejay Sai is an award-winning writer, editor and a culture critic. He writes extensively on Indian performing arts, cultural history, food and philosophy. He lives in New Delhi and can be reached at

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