- It was the most difficult work I have ever done: Vasanth Kannabiran
Every poet, however ancient, was in a dialogue with God, king or society. Ancient poets spoke of the equality of men, of the impunity of caste and the injustice faced by the dispossessed. Gaddar is first and foremost a bard of the revolution, a harbinger of change. He must be celebrated as such,” Vasath Kannabiran told Vijaya Mary of The Hindu. She was talking about the relevance of Gaddar and his works to the present times. In an interview based piece published in The Hindu on Saturday, Vasanth, who was a lecturer, a writer, poet and an activist working for women’s rights, talked about Gaddar’s poems which she translated from Telugu into English.
Vasanth knew Gaddar since 1975 when the latter visited her house to meet Kannabiran, her late husband who was a human rights activist and a reputed lawyer. She selected 23 songs, which have representative nature, from hundreds of his songs and translated them to introduce Gaddar to non-Telugu readers. She thought she needs to place Gaddar’s brilliance before the non-Telugu public.
“I have always been fascinated by the ease with which he translates the political into sheer poetry; the simplicity and purity of his style. But I never dreamt of translating his songs,” said Vasanth.
Gummadi Vittal Rao, born in the outskirts of Hyderabad, did his engineering before plunging into revolutionary politics and become Gaddar, the balladeer, writing lyrics and rendering them in an emotional pitch. He became the cultural face of Naxalite movement and has been going about with a bullet in his body.
It is not easy to translate Gaddar. ”it was the most difficult and challenging work I have done so far. Capturing his oral tones, the rhythms, the notes in the cold print, the pauses, the roars, the grunts and the drums was impossible. It was not just a translation from a text. His voice rings in my ears,” said Vasanth. She has given a lot of information about the local references, gods, goddesses, Srikakulam revolutionary movement and popular idioms by way of footnotes to help the non-Telugu reader to understand better. “Gaddar has been a part of my life, a comrade in a struggle I admired for its dedication and sacrifice. I have a strong sense of his work because of my association and exposure to the Naxalite movement,” Vasanth said.
“Gaddar composes and sings as he breathes. The slightest incident or remark and he breaks into song. He improvises as he sings. The important ones are revised and recorded. There must be thousands of songs imprinted on the hearts of listeners,” she explained.
“Though I have studied and taught literature, I never thought of writing or translating work as a scholar. I was a teacher and my first attempt was to teach Coleridge, Wordsworth and Milton to my Telugu medium student. My attempts to write or translate or record sprang from my feminist politics, never as pure literature,” said Vasanth.
“Gaddar is a life force,” said Vasanth describing the book ‘My Life Is A Song; Gaddar’s Anthems for the Revolution.” The book is published by Speaking Tger Books.