Monday, July 15, 2024

Gaddar, the balladeer, no more

  • One and only Gaddar
  • A people’s warship  stops

Revolutionary Telugu balladeer Gaddar passed away. The legendary poet and singer breathed his last at 3 pm on Sunday at Apollo Spectra Hospital in Hyderabad. The 74 year old joined the hospital on July 20 complaining chest pain. He was suffering from heart disease. Bypass surgery was performed on August 3. The hospital bulletin said he recovered after surgery. Later he developed problems with lungs and kidney. He also had urinary problem. He succumbed three days after surgery. His body was taken to LB Stadium to enable his numerous admirers to pay their respects. The funeral will take place on Monday at the school he established at Alwal.

Gaddra kissing Rahul Gandhi

Born as Gummadi Vittal Rao at Toopran village in Medak district in 1949, the renowned folk singer became popular as Gaddar. He dropped out of engineering course and worked in a bank for a while before taking to revolutionary songs. He was a star performer for CPI (ML) attracting students and other youngsters from villages. He was the face of Naxalite movement in 1980s and 1990s. Gaddar who was shot by assailants in the 1990s had a bullet stuck in his spinal cord till his death.

Gaddar was a close friend of mine since 1984 when we first met at Vijayawada. He was briefing the media persons on behalf of the People’s War Group. He was meeting me at regular intervals. He must have met other editors also. A man of undiluted love and affection, it was always a pleasure to meet him. Of late, he was busy trying to publish complete collection of his songs.

Telangana Governor Tamilisai Sounderarajan, Haryana Governor Bandaru Dattatreya, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge,  Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu expressed grief at Gaddar’s demise in a tweet saying, “A political chapter in public movement and human rights campaign has come to an end with the passing away of Gaddar. He moved the masses with his voice.” Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy said, “He (Gaddar) was the voice of the downtrodden and fought for social justice through his inspiring songs.”  Union Minister from Telanagana G Kishan Reddy acknowledged the key role played by Gaddar in spreading awareness on various issues giving an impetus to the Telangana movement.

Kharge said Gaddar would remain a hope for the aspirations of the weaker sections. Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “Saddened to hear about the demise of Shri Gummadi Vittal Rao, Telangana’s iconic poet, balladeer and fiery activist. His (Gaddar’s) love for people of Telangana drove him to fight fearlessly for the marginalized. May his legacy continue to inspire us all.”

Gaddar was at the huge public meeting addressed by Rahul Gandhi at Khammam on July 2. He was seen planting a kiss on Rahul’s cheek and hugging him. After quitting revolutionary politics he had joined the mainstream and voted for the first time in his life in 2018 Assembly elections.

Gaddar was a staunch supporter of Telangana movement. His song “Podustunna Poddu Meeda Nadustunna Kaalamaa Poru Telanganama” was one of the anthems of separate statehood movement of Telangana. It was adopted as State anthem by Telangana government. Gaddar was known for his political sense and his knowledge of people’s pulse. He foresaw NTR’s massive election victory in 1994. “Mallonchinde Mayadaari NTvoodu” was the song he rendered at that time. He said NTR who called Naxalite patriots encourage the police to hunt them down. He celebrated NTR’s defeat in 1989 with songs. Ridiculing the leaders of CPI and CPM for having electoral understanding with NTR’s TDP and later with Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP, he called them slaves of the actor-turned-politician. He had complaint against Gandhi for staying at Birla House and keeping quiet when Bhagat Singh was executed by the British.

Gaddar used to mesmerise crowds

In Maa Bhoomi directed by ace director Narsing Rao, Gaddar, when he was very young without his traditional beard, acted in tune with his song “Bandena bandi katti, padahaaruu bandlu katti, Yee bandle Pootavu Kodukoo Nizam sarkarooda….” In another song he taunts the governments for having police camps in villages which did not have schools and hospitals direly needed by the people. In yet another song he requests the police constables to join the underdog to fight the oppressive landlords and repressive governments-“Potta kutikoraku policelaina priyamaina constabullara, miiruu rytanagam biddalee…”

Pawan Kalyan, film hero and chief of Jana Sena Party, was closely associated with Gaddar. He met him at the hospital recently. His elder brother Chiranjeevi also paid rich tributes to Gaddar calling him ‘People’s warship’ (Prajaa Yuddha Nouka). Gaddar used to call Pawan “tammudduu.” Gaddar was also close to YS Rajasekhar Reddy, former chief minister who died in a copter crash, and Paritala Ravi, TDP leader who was killed by his rivals. Late Devipriya, a famous poet and journalist, produced a documentary on Gaddar by name “People’s Warship.”

Gaddar loved Palle (village), Thalli (mother) and Chelli (sister). “Sirimalle Chettu Kinda Latchammo…”on his mother, “Nii paadam miida puttu matchanai chellamma….” on sister are immortal songs written and sung by Gaddar. He was pioneering in songs, diction and action while singing. There was none before him and there would be none after him. One and only Gaddar.

K. Ramachandra Murthy
K. Ramachandra Murthy
Founder & Editor


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