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Surabhi (theatre group)

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Surabhi (also known as Sri Venkateswara Natya Mandali) is a family theatre group based in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India. The group performs plays based on stories from Hindu mythology and the Puranas.



Sri Venkateshwara Natya Mandali (Surabhi) (Regd. No. 7/62) ANDHRA PRADESH Sri Vanarasa Govindarao, Founder of Surabhi Theatres, had a big family of 3 sons and 10 daughters. Except the eldest son, all the others spent their lives in the theatre and were trained for it. When the family started growing in numbers, the daughters with their husbands started establishing their own theatre groups. The Fifth daughter, Smt. Subhadramma and her husband Sri R. Venkatarao established Sri Venkateshwara Natya Mandali (Surabhi) in 1937 in Gividipeta Village of Srikakulam District of Andhra Pradesh. The wife and husband were assisted by their children, Dasaradhirao, Bhojaraju, Nageswararao (Babji), Ganapathi Rao. The theatre group started growing and is now one of the biggest surviving groups with 55 members. Smt. R. Subhadramma has specialised in doing male roles, particularly the character like Duryodhana in Mahabharat. She was awarded the title of 'KALA PRAVEENA’ by Sangeeta Nataka Akademi of Andhra Pradesh. In addition, both the husband and wife received many honors from various organizations of the state. After their death, their sons are now managing the theatre under the Stewardship of Sri R. Nageswararao (Babji). This theatre group SRI VENKATESHWARA NATYA MANDALI (Surabhi) celebrated DIAMOND JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS (75 years completed(2012), Has the fortune of guidance of Padma shri B.V. Karanth to reform and assimilate their traditional mould with modern theatre styles.This organizations learned three plays they are "BHISHMA" (1996), organized by National School of Drama (New Delhi), "CHANDI PRIYA"(1997) "ALARIPPU"(New Delhi),’’BASTHI DEVATHA YAADAMMA’’("THE GOOD WOMEN OF SETZUAN" written by Bertolt Brecht)(1998). Padma Sri B.V. Karanth not only directed these 3 plays for the group but also provided music for all the 3 plays. The group consisting of brothers, sisters, their children and their families, as a close knit group, live together, travel from place to place to perform in their specially erected halls, staying at each place ranging from 3 months to one year, depending on the public response. This mobile theatre repertory group, presents 26 plays, detailed reverse on any day with a few hours notice. The Surabhi group was formed by Vanarasa Govinda Rao in 1885 in Surabhi, a village in the Kadapa District of Andhra Pradesh. Rao's adopted father was involved with the traditional shadow-puppetry of Andhra Pradesh, Tholu Bommalata. After his sudden and unfortunate death, Rao took over the group, gradually replacing the puppets with live actors.

In 1885, Rao was invited to host a live drama at a wedding by the elders of Surabhi. His acting troupe performed the play Keechaka Vadham, traditionally depicted using leather puppets, as a live drama.

Rao's family continued in the theatrical business. His daughters established their own theatre groups with their husbands. His fifth daughter, Subhadramma, and her husband, R. Venkatarao, established the Sri Venkateshwara Natya Mandali (Surabhi) in 1937, in Gividipeta, Srikakulam district, Andhra Pradesh. They were assisted by their children, Dasaradhirao Bhojaraju, Nageswararao (Babji), and Ganapathi Rao. The theatre group began to flourish, and today it is one of the largest surviving groups with 55 members.

R. Subhadramma specialised in doing male roles, particularly characters like Duryodhana from the Mahabharat. She was awarded the title of Kala Praveena by Sangeeta Nataka Akademi of Andhra Pradesh. After their death, their sons have managed the theatre under the stewardship of R. Nageswararao (Babji).

The group live together and travel from place to place to perform in specially-erected halls. The group stays at each place for three months to a year, depending on public response. As a repertory group, they present 26 plays.


The group celebrated its diamond jubilee in October 2013. In the 1990s, it was directed in the 1990s by B. V. Karanth. In 1996, the National School of Drama organized a production-workshop for one month under Karanth, who chose the Bengali play by Dwijendralal Roy, Bhishma, for adaptation into the Telugu language.

In 1997, the development organisation ALARIPPU, used the Surabhi group to disseminate their ideas in rural areas of Andhra Pradesh. The traditional play Chandi Priya, focusing on women's life and strength, was chosen for a production workshop project, under Karanth's theatrical and musical directorship.

ALARIPPU organised another production workshop during August 1998 for which Bertolt Brecht's play The Good Woman of Setzuan was chosen, commemorating Brecht's centenary.

In May 2013, the group played outside India for the first time, with performances at theatre festivals in Paris and Metz.

Plays enacted

  • Sri Krishna Leelalu : The Exploits of Little Krishna
  • Jai Pathala Bhairavi : The Story of Folk Legend Thota Ramudu
  • Lavakusa : The Exploits of Twin Prince Lava and Kusa, sons of Srirama
  • Bhakta Prahlada : The Tale of Prahlada, the devoted child
  • Maya Bazar : The Tale of Demon king Ghatothkacha
  • Braham Gari Charitra
  • Bala Nagamma : The Story of a Wicked Sorcerer
  • Chandi Priya
  • References

    Surabhi (theatre group) Wikipedia

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