Sometime back a man stood outside the Parliament in New Delhi dressed as Satya Harishchandra, the legendary Indian king who lost everything, including his wife and son, just to fulfil a promise he had made. The man in the costume was the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MP Naramalli Sivaprasad, representing the 16th Lok Sabha, who was sending out a loud message through his costume to the rulers, that they needed to emulate Harishchandra and keep their promise to give Special Category Status to his truncated state of Andhra Pradesh.
The next day he was seen dressed as Mahatma Gandhi. Another day, he took up the role of an alms-seeker, flogging himself on the street – an expression of anger by the legislator-actor over the government leaving his bruised state in the lurch.
The 68-year-old former MP passed away in Chennai on Saturday while undergoing treatment for a kidney ailment.
Every day when the Parliament was in session people cutting across the treasury and opposition benches would turn curiously to see what kind of special get-up Sivaprasad was donning to drive his message home. He would get into a unique role each day, using theatrics as an effective weapon to give vent to his anger and anguish over the fate of his home state. His dramatic appearances were packed with a powerful message, thus becoming a daily feed for the media.
People of the national capital passing by the Parliament took a break from their schedule, amused and awestruck by the MP’s histrionics.
With his party’s small number of 17 Lok Sabha and six Rajya Sabha members, Sivaprasad led a spirited protest, blending his art with the cause of his home state after his party parted ways with the NDA on the special status demand in March 2018.
Diehard fan of Karunanidhi
When he appeared in Parliament in a wheelchair dressed like the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader M Karunanidhi, one wondered what was the message he intended to convey. “I am a diehard fan of Karunanidhi,” Sivaprasad told this writer sometime back.
Sivaprasad expressed his admiration for Kalaignar saying, “In a verse Karunanidhi said one should be like a hero while waging a war; like Karna from the Indian epic Mahabharata who laid down his life for friendship; speak the truth like Raja Harishchandra who lost everything for the sake of truth, and lead people like a ruler who upholds the rule of dharma.” Sivaprasad lamented that people in the present polity are lacking these traits.
Juxtaposing Shivaji with Modi
Sivaprasad ensured that there was a meaning and message behind every role he donned.
Once Sivaprasad chose to come to Parliament dressed as Chhatrapati Shivaji, architect of the Maratha empire who protected Muslims and honoured his mentors as a true disciple. By doing so, Shivaji performed his duty as a king in letter and spirit.
Sivaprasad intended to juxtapose Shivaji with PM Narendra Modi and criticise the latter for failing to protect Muslims during the Godhra riots. Unlike Shivaji, Modi deceived his mentors like LK Advani, Sivaprasad said.
Andhra Pradesh lost a staunch integrationist with the death of Sivaprasad. As an MP during 2009-2014 and an actor, he blended theatrics with the Samaikyandhra movement by roping in a battery of artistes, poets and writers, and gave voice to the people of his state.
From doctor to actor
Naramalli Sivaprasad was a medical practitioner by profession who later made films his full-time avocation. He produced and directed a few films, and also acted in several films including women-centric flicks such as Aadivaram Adavallaku Selavu and Madam.
On request from his childhood friend and then Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, Sivaprasad took a break from films to join politics. He was elected to the Assembly twice (1999-2004 and 2004-2009) and also served as Minister for Information and Public Relations in undivided Andhra Pradesh. Later, he became a Lok Sabha member twice (2009-2014 and 2014-2019), representing Chittoor, which is reserved for Scheduled Castes.
TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu and Sivaprasad, both hailing from Chittoor district, were childhood friends having known each other since their school days.
Sivaprasad’s village Pullithuvaripalli is located 2 km from Naidu’s Naravaripalli and they studied together up to their school final in a government school at Rangampeta. The duo made their acting debut in a play titled Paruvu Kosam (For the sake of honour) in 1966 during their school days. Later Sivaprasad studied medicine and took up acting while Naidu went into politics.
Years after parting ways since high school, Sivaprasad came back to lend a hand to his friend in politics in his own way.
Gali Nagaraja is a freelance journalist who writes on the two Telugu states.