A Theatre Artist & Puppeteer awarded Padma Shri from Andhra Pradesh

Two persons from Andhra Pradesh will receive the prestigious Padma Shri award for their contribution to the field of art. Yadla Gopal Rao, a theatre artiste from Srikakulam district, and Dalavai Chalapathi Rao, a leather puppet artisan from Anantapur district, were among the 118 persons selected for the award by the Government of India.
Besides them, ace shuttler and Telugu girl P.V. Sindhu will receive the Padma Bhushan, albeit under the Telangana State category. Chief Minister Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy congratulated the three achievers on the occasion.
How Chalapathi Rao & Family saved Puppetry 
Chalapathi Rao, 78, whose family migrated from Maharashtra several generations ago, has been engaged in the art of leather puppetry for generations. He lives in Nimmalakunta village of Dharmavaram mandal. 
He expressed happiness over the news and said his Padma Shri would be like an award to the vanishing craft of leather puppetry, which he hopes would now get a fresh lease of life. Not just Chalapathi Rao and his seven brothers, but most of his relatives dedicated their lives to the art of crafting leather puppets and organising puppetry shows across the country and abroad. 
Once a much sought-after form of entertainment in the pre-TV and cinema era, puppetry started losing patronage, but the Chalapati Rao strived hard to give it new life. He not only encouraged youth to take up the craft, but also imparted proper training to them so that they could reach new heights and get paid for their work. He also trained and helped them bag national awards.
A Theatre Artist’s journey through life
Yadla Gopala Rao is a well-noted theatre personality in North Coastal Andhra. He hails from Mandarada village of Santakaviti mandal in Srikakulam district. The 70-year-old, who hails from a family of theatre artistes, expressed his happiness over being selected for Padma Shri and said it was recognition for his contribution to the world of theatre.
Well known for performing Gayopakhayanam and mythological plays like Harischandra, he said he has been involved with theatre from a young age and had performed 5,600 shows at several places. “My father Ramamurthy was a theatre artiste and was an inspiration to me. My first theatre performance was in 1964 when I was 14 years old and the play was Desam Kosam, which was a social drama,” he explained.
He learnt music from his paternal uncle Yadla Satyam, which helped in his career as a theatre artiste. Noted for his role as Nakshtraka in the mythological play Satya Harishchandra, he received several awards including the prestigious Nandi award. “The Award has only increased my responsibility to the art form,” he said.

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