Ravi Kumar Chowdarapally, popularly known as ‘Oggu Ravi’, has dealt with his father’s passive aggression for as much as four months for his choice to pursue the traditional folk art form of ‘Oggu katha’ and ‘Oggu dance’ over academic education. Ravi, who happens to be the grandson of the famous Oggu art legend Chukka Sattaiah from Telangana, has been following the footsteps of his grandfather since 1997 and delivered his first performance in the Chinna Gopathi village in Khammam district while in the seventh grade.
As he went onstage at Ravindra Bharati to present his play Dharmagraham, Ravi reminisced his journey. He said, “I’ve been attracted to the art since childhood. It runs in my family. In fact, till 2010, my grandfather and I were performing together. However, after his injury, I didn’t perform as much as we did together and the next four years were nightmarish. I did not want to lose hope so I continued to do my bit, and then the advent of the new Telangana state brought the much-needed recognition to the art form. I even received the Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar from Sangeet Natak Akademi in the year 2017.”
Ravi has been interested in theatre since the year 2007, which was when he had joined the Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University to pursue a Masters degree. “I started directing Telugu plays and won the Nandi award for my play Razakar at the 2014 Nandi Theatre Festival which was held in Rajahmundry. My present play is inspired by the philosophy of the well-known theatre doyens Girish Karnad and Habib Tanvir, who were the first ones to bring folk tradition into theatre. I have attempted to go one step further and am experimenting with multimedia effects in the play. The troupe comprises 28 members that bring to life the Renuka Yellamma story,” he said. Ravi has an interesting perspective on sponsorships in art, which he shared with us. He explained, “I have never approached sponsors for my productions till date. I believe that those who want to support art forms must understand the fine line of divide between sponsorship and donations. Behind every art form lies a history and behind every performance lies a fair a mount of struggle. Therefore, only sponsorships that stem from respect or the recognition of the dignity and the efforts of artists are welcome.”