15 April, 2021

The Balladeer’s Mutiny

For decades, the shirtless bard’s stirring songs lent punch to a class struggle. Gaddar may carry on singing, but his opting to be a voter implies the mutation of a rebel note.

New Path
Gaddar, 68, at Yadadri shrine off Hyderabad, recently. He aims to bring together ‘like-minded’ parties.
Photograph by Hindustan Times
The Balladeer’s Mutiny

He would appear typically bare-chested in public venues while rendering revolutionary songs, but what Gaddar stripped himself of the other day came as a surprise to many: the Telugu balladeer has given up Maoism. On April 6, exactly two decades after he survived a murder attempt, the sexagenarian announced embracing democracy. “I have applied for my vote,” he said aloud, waving a voter registration form. “I have no membership with any party. I am only a common man with the freedom to decide my path,” he told a Hyderabad gathering in a voice and tone that reso­unded with pain as well as relief.

Hundreds of Naxalites have over the years surrendered bef­ore the law, yet Gaddar’s decision to snap his four-decade ass­ociation with the Maoist party was least routine news. For, it also implied his exit from the Jana Natya Mandali (JNM), a Leftist cultural front he founded and led passionately. For long, central India’s most popular Naxalite’s JNM tours were a celebration of hundreds of soulful, earthy songs that stirred the...

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