Surabhi Natakam: Help sustain an endangered art

The Art and Literature of Telugu Poetic Mythological Drama is Endangered
- Help preserve it for future generations!

Telugu is a relatively modern Indian language that is only about 3500 years old, with its roots in Dravidian languages with a strong flair of Sanskrit giving it the rhythmic and poetic flavor. Telugu is one of the six languages accorded the status of a "Classical Language" of India by the Government of India. Telugu is one of the twenty-two scheduled languages of the Republic of India, and ranks fourth with over 130 million speakers. It is also the fastest-growing language in the United States.

Surabhi Drama Theatre - Surabhi Jayanand Group is one of the less than handful of descendants of the original 135 year old Surabhi Nataka Mandali (loosely translates to Surabhi Theatrical Society) that is still nurturing and keeping alive the culture, literature and art of Theatre and Drama in Telugu language. As for the poetic mythological Telugu drama goes, there is almost no one else other than the few Surabhi groups.

Watching Surabhi drama is an exceptional experience, which shows conceptual wonders parallel to modern graphics. Quick scene transitions in seconds and visual effects leaves the audience spellbound. It is not an exaggeration to say that most of Telugu mythological movies before the advent of computer-generated graphics were either based on or inspired from Surabhi dramas not only for story & dialogues but also for visual effects.

While at its peak, Surabhi Nataka Mandali was comprised of 64 Surabhi companies, the advent and popularity of motion picture and television invaded upon the theatre business causing a sharp decline in viewership and patrons. There still were about 240 families dedicated to this art and the literature supporting it around two decades ago. Today, it is about 60 families still working on theatre while only around 30 of them have the current generation youngsters taking this up as their livelihood. This is primarily because of the meagre income and sub-par livelihood the theatrical art is promising them.

The COVID-19 pandemic had brought the curtains down for these families for a little over an year now. With theatre's closed, they have lost their livelihood as Surabhi families have nurtured a unique culture of entire family working for the theatre as all they way from scripts, costumes, makeup, stage artistes, production, stage art (they even paint their own mesmerizing stage curtains), lighting, music - basically with no dependency from outsiders except for to appreciate their art and support their lives. They are now struggling every day to bring food on to their table. Sorry, most do not even have a dining table and it is more relevant to call food on to their plate.

Now, this story is not about seeking help to sustain some theatre artistes and technicians until they can get back to performing in theatre. This is about helping them sustain themselves so they can keep alive

-          Telugu drama, particularly the unique art form of Telugu Padya Natakam (Poetic Drama)
-          and thereby the art and literature of our Telugu Pouranika Natakam (Mythological Drama)
-          and thereby our great Indian culture of amazingly interesting story telling for the generations to come.

The Surabhi artistes are not seeking alms. They are asking us to give a chance to perform and thereby make a payment for the performance. Ottawa Telugu Association has paid for a performance that is to be telecast as part of our Ugadi Cultural Event as a YouTube premiere show on Saturday, 17 April 2021. Details of the show and links would be updated on our website at  

An important thing to note in the short play Surabhi Drama Theatre made for Ottawa Telugu Association is that all the artistes on stage are under 30 years old. Most are teenagers and kids. These are 8th and 9th generation children of Surabhi family dedicated to Telugu Drama – by choice.

Please donate generously
- for the love of our culture
- for the love of our language and
- for the love of this art which is an amazing form of entertainment

Every penny shall be handed over to Surabhi Drama Theatre - Surabhi Jayanand Group by Ottawa Telugu Association ( ) after any mandatory cuts by the funding platform and ForEx transfers.

Thank you

Ottawa Telugu Association


Ottawa Telugu Association
Nepean , ON

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