By Gurajada Venkata Appa Rao Translated from the Telugu by C. Vijaysree and T. Vijay Kumar
Past Continuous: Series Editor Meenakshi Mukherjee
Kanyasulkam is often hailed as the first ‘modern’ text in Telugu, but it is also one of the earliest to have critiqued the colonial models of modernity. Appa Rao, who was himself a part of the movement for reform in the nineteenth century, not only saw the ambivalences and inconsistencies in the ideologies of reform of his own time but exposed them with critical discernment in Kanyasulkam. The play first published in 1897 and later revised and expanded in 1909, deals not only with the evil practice of bride-price, but also with several inter-related social issues of the time like child marriage, widow remarriage, and the ‘nautch question’. The playwright’s intent is serious, but his essential dramatic mode is comedy. Through humour and levity Appa Rao foregrounded an encounter between tradition and modernity that has not lost its relevance even today.