Exploring India’s Modern Renaissance: The Multifaceted Legacy of B. Narasing Rao in Arts, Science, and Culture

Rao, a student of fine arts who embodied the renaissance attitude and ideal, started the artist group Art Lovers in the 1960s and went on to pursue a career in the theatre


Mumbai :  The renewal of ideas, forms, and expressions from a given culture towards modern social reconstruction is what the term “Renaissance” refers to. It also had its own fingerprints in India during the 19th and 20th centuries, with its effect on scientists, intellectuals and artists alike, generating renowned characters such as Rajaram Mohan Roy, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Prafulla Chandra Ray, Rabindranath Tagore, etc. B. Narasing Rao, who also excelled in the realms of music, museology, literature, photography, painting, etc., bears the legacy of this inspiration in his oeuvre and character to this day.

Rao, a student of fine arts who embodied the renaissance attitude and ideal, started the artist group Art Lovers in the 1960s and went on to pursue a career in the theatre. During Rao’s tenure as president, the group played many concerts across Telangana. When it reopened in the early 1970s as Jana Natya Mandali, Art Lovers quickly became a hub for artists from all across Telugu country, inspiring hundreds of performances, exhibitions, and impromptu plays over the course of four decades.

After writing the screenplay for Gautham Ghosh’s late 1970s feature Maa Bhoomi (Our Land), he soon rose to prominence as one of India’s most important cinematic characters. He has won prestigious accolades for the films he has directed and written, including half a dozen features, a dozen documentaries, and a dozen shorts. His work has such an effect on the Indian cinema industry that it continues to serve as an inspiration to contemporary filmmakers. Rao is also a brilliant humanist who saw the role that art could play in creating peace in society. His films convey powerful social messages through inventive storytelling techniques and music that captures the ambiance of different cultures. He is a genuine global citizen, and his art reflects that; with this, he launched a film movement throughout rural Telugu territory, which aided the development of independent cinema in India.

Most of his films won awards at international film festivals such as Cairo (2004), Budapest (1999), Bergamo (1994), Berlin (1991–92), Moscow (1989, 1991), Karlovi Vary (1990), and Munich (1989). His films, especially Daasi (Slave) and Maa Ooru (My Village), have been included on the reading lists of several prestigious universities and film schools.

Except for Maa Bhoomi, all of Rao’s films have speech and screenplay written by Rao himself, and he has already established himself as a potential actor by playing the lead in films like Rangula Kala and Maa Bhoomi. Many of the songs he directed and created for his films and for the stage were met with critical and popular acclaim; his characteristic use of traditional instruments in music that preserves its antiquity is also well recognised. After collecting 50,000 phonograph recordings and preserving the rarest folk songs and forms, Rao wrote Sangeeta Prapancham, which was later translated into English as The World of Music, to spread his passion for preserving folk arts.

The idea for a museum of locks and doors came to him when he became interested in museology, archaeology, anthropology, and the history of folk literature, arts, and culture. He ended up collecting 1,000 ancient locks, restoring them, and documenting their history. Rao is also a skilled visual artist and photographer, with over 10,000 drawings and 50 paintings to his name and exhibitions in several museums and galleries. In addition to documenting the scroll painting of Nakashi Art, he is also working on mural paintings of Telangana, which he created as part of his exploration and documentation of the growth of folk arts. Rao has taken 50,000 images so far, and has collected 6,000 of the most historically significant and unusual photographs from 1860 to 1960 for a museum of photography. Some of Rao’s work was translated into other languages, and he published many volumes of Telugu poetry, dramas, and short tales.

For his contribution to varied fields, Rao is not only honored with doctorates by various universities, but was also appointed as advisor and jury member for several committees. Recently, Rao is honored with six awards from different reputed organizations abroad, for his life time achievements in varied fields. They include: 1. The highest civilian award of ‘Moroccan Star for Creativity’, in culture and humanitarian fields, by International Forum for Creativity and Humanity, Morocco; 2. ‘Gentleman with a Heart Award 2022,’by Women of Hearts Awards, London; 3.    ‘Certificate of Thanks and Appreciation,’ by the International Human Rights Organization/International Forum for Creativity and Humanity, Morocco; 4. International Forum for Creativity and Humanity, Morocco, presented him with an ‘Honorary Doctorate’; 5. ‘Doctor of Excellence’ on April 21, 2022 on behalf of the Theophany International University/Algilani Institute International, by Leaders Autonomy International, Philippines; 6. The Federation of World Cultural & Art Society Singapore (FOWCASS) appointed him in 2021 him as ‘International Multicultural Distinguished Honorary Advisor’; it is a rare distinction as he is one among 12 internationally acclaimed celebrities, who are appointed to this position from 160-member nations.

Given his distinction of merit as diverse fields as theatre, cinema, folk music, paintings, writing, and his tireless efforts in exploring and cultivating the intellect of highest order in rejuvenating the above-mentioned cultural art forms, for universal humanity and social harmony, B. Narasing Rao best qualifies to be the renaissance man of our times.