Jaya Jayahe Telangana: Chequered existence, unsettled status

A state song should glorify the territorial speciality, historical legacy, people’s lives and cultural inheritance with a future vision.

ByN Venugopal

Published Jun 04, 2024 | 9:10 AMUpdatedJun 04, 2024 | 3:22 PM

Telangana chief minister at Telangana Day celebrations. (X)

Can an evocative song, popular for over two decades and on everybody’s lips, raise a storm, at least on social media and among opinion makers? It seems it would if the state is involved and the ambience is volatile. Jaya Jayahe Telangana, penned by Andesri in late 2003, had a momentous history in its 21 years of existence before becoming the official state song on 2 June 2024. Even after that, it appears it is running into trouble.

Even its nomenclature is controversial, as some Telanganites prefer to call it the “national” song or anthem. Whether Telangana can be called a nationality to describe its state song as the “national anthem” is a moot question. But that academic debate can wait, as there are so many other raging arguments for and against.

Why was it not recognised as the state song in the last ten years? Why is it being offered that honour at this point in time? Are there different versions of the song available? If yes, who made the changes and why? Who is the lyricist, of course, and whether he accepted the changes? Why did the anthem of Telangana choose a music director from a region that allegedly suppressed Telangana culture for a long time? What was the final official outcome and the response it evoked?

The song’s genesis

According to an interview with the lyricist ten years ago, the idea of a “national anthem” for Telangana struck him at a Telangana meeting at Kamareddy in March 2003. The first version of four stanzas and a refrain was sung as the salute to the Telangana flag at a Telangana Rachayitala Vedika meeting in Adilabad on 11 November 2003.

The rest is history. With its evocative lyrics and captivating tune, it caught the attention of the rising Telangana movement, and within a short time, it was reprinted at several places, recorded on cassettes, and cut into CDs by several organisations. The Telangana movement had given rise to hundreds of singers, each one of whom, at one time or another, rendered the song in his or her voice.

In 2006, Telangana Utsav, one of the many organisations that evolved during the movement, made the Spirit of Telangana Calendar 2006 and posted the song on YouTube. During the heyday of the movement between 2009-2014, in the aftermath of the 9 December statement of Union Home Minister P Chidambaram that Telangana’s formation was being initiated and the u-turn within a day, there were hundreds, if not thousands, of meetings in almost all villages and towns, and singing this anthem was mandatory.

During the same period, a new form of cultural performance, Dhoom Dhaam (mainly a song-speech blend), was developed in hundreds of places, and this song was a must everywhere. Gradually, this song added two more stanzas and was published in the diaries of almost every Telangana employee’s organisation until 2014.

No status in 2014

Given that background, when Telangana was formed on 2 June 2014, everybody expected this song would be accorded state song status, but in vain. For an unknown strange reason, K Chandrashekar Rao, the then chief minister, never broached the subject. This was despite an earlier rumour that KCR added a stanza here and an expression there in the song.

The suspension of official status was attributed to an alleged difference of opinion between Andesri and KCR, as the former refused joint authorship claimed by the latter. Nobody knows the real reason, but the idea of the state song itself was shelved, and Andesri became a bitter critic of the then government and the singers supporting it.

However, the song continued to be printed in books and elsewhere and sung at schools and functions for the next ten years without official recognition.

Come 2024, times changed, and the new government, in its spree of revenge politics, wanted to undo what had been done. Rather, do what has been undone. Andesri and his song naturally came into the corridors of power with revenge. By this time, the song grew into 11 stanzas and a refrain, and the government of Telangana officially declared the 10 m 32 s song as its state song and prepared a shorter version, 2 m 38 s long.

Music director’s choice flayed

Even as the government was announcing its decision, social media was agog with objections to the choice of the music director. It was announced that Oscar-winning M M Keeravani was scoring the music. Telangana singers and songwriters, in particular, and the intelligentsia in general, criticised the move and asked the government whether there were no music directors in Telangana.

People at large responded angrily, asking why this crucial task was assigned to a music director from Andhra, whose cultural domination for five decades was fought by Telangana. Social media witnessed bitter comments against the decision.

BRS, waiting for such an opportunity, joined the slugfest. The chief minister had to clarify that it was the choice of the lyricist and the government had nothing to do with it. Some singers and writers posted their objections to the song’s choice and content. Some directly challenged Andesri; a few even recorded their conversations and posted them on social media. In those recordings, Andesri appeared arrogant, dismissive and self-righteous.

The poet’s background

Andesri, a mason and construction worker by profession, could not have a formal education in childhood as he was an orphan and worked as a cattle herder for a living. He got a little education with the help of people like Shankar Maharaj (a religious guru) and Prof B Rama Raju (a Telugu scholar and former professor of Osmania University) and began singing and composing his own songs.

The Telangana movement gave him a push, and he wrote and sang dozens of songs that enthralled audiences. Thanks to his contributions to the movement, Kakatiya University awarded him an honorary doctorate, regarded as quite an achievement for an almost illiterate poet-composer. Having some training in classical literature and spirituality, most of his songs contain high-sounding archaic Sanskrit expressions and folk idioms.

Indeed, Jaya Jayahe also carries several exotic expressions, whether in its initial versions of four or six stanzas or the present version of eleven. The song was also severely criticised for its Sanskritised phrases, state patronage, music director choice, and lyricist’s arrogant response.

Even if one discounts the criticism, the final outcome leaves much to be desired. A state song or a national anthem is a serious business that should glorify the territorial speciality, historical legacy, people’s lives and cultural inheritance with a future vision.

Questionable changes

Out of the eleven stanzas in the present song, three full stanzas discuss poetic tradition in Telangana, while the same subject continues in part in at least three other stanzas. Additionally, this glory in the history of poetry is restricted to the ancient and Middle Ages only, and the song did not even cross the 18th century!

And also there are some significant changes from the earlier versions. When Kancharla Gopanna, a 17th-century poet-singer famous for his keertanas on Lord Ram, was mentioned, his act of “constructing Ram temple” was specifically added now. While the earlier versions had a line on Golconda Nawabs concerning Charminar, the word Nawabs was removed to replace ‘Bhagyanagari’ now. There is no need to mention that this new name for Hyderabad is close to Sangh Parivar. Also, schools were equated with temples in the new version.

The major glaring omissions were the heroic Telangana Peasant Armed Struggle (1946-51), the rise of modern consciousness, and many people‘s movements in the early part of the 20th century. People expect to see names like Palakurthi Ilamma, Doddi Komaraiah, Bandagi, and Shoebulla Khan. The omissions are conspicuous when the names of Komuram Bheem and lesser-known Panduga Sayanna and Meeresab are mentioned.

It is natural that one compares the song one heard hundreds of times and felt inspired with the version that is now officially doled out. While the earlier song was evocative, inspiring, stimulating and emotional, the present song appears like a film song, at best. The unnecessary chorus, jarring repetitions, non-serious rendition, and cinematic jumps erode the sobriety, respect and seriousness expected from an anthem.

(N Venugopal is Editor, Veekshanam, Telugu monthly journal of political economy and society. Views are personal.)

(Edited by VVP Sharma)