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Intelligent Design

An acclaimed art director re-imagines a revered shrine.

One morning this March, in Hyderabad, Anand Sai was preparing for his day when his phone rang. It was Kishan Rao, a retired IAS officer who is now the CEO of the Yadagirigutta Temple Development Authority, or YTDA. “Get ready,” Sai was told. “The CM wants to meet you at his office, first thing today.”

“This is my day,” the art director, who has worked on over 30 Telugu films, recalled thinking. Before rushing out, he grabbed his concept sketches for a redeveloped temple complex at Yadagirigutta, a cave shrine 60 kilometres north-east of the city, in the young state of Telangana. “I couldn’t go empty-handed,” Sai told me. “My drawings do the talking for me.”

He arrived at the state secretariat, and was shown into the office of the Telangana chief minister, K Chandrashekar Rao—popularly known as KCR. The chief minister, who presides over the YTDA, was particularly taken with one of the three directions Sai presented. Over the next few weeks, Sai worked frantically to produce detailed drawings of the design, and present them to KCR again. He also helped put together a tender application, and completed the paperwork to be appointed the designer for the Yadagirigutta project. For Sai, this was the culmination of many years’ effort to transform himself into a temple designer.

I visited the place, situated on a 300-foot hill, in July, and headed up to the main shrine. Yadagirigutta was revered even before Telangana’s separation from Andhra Pradesh, but locals had long accused the Andhra government of neglecting it. KCR, on the other hand, recently allocated Rs 100 crore of state funds per year to realise the new design. Yadagirigutta receives between 5,000 and 8,000 visitors on a typical day, with the numbers at least doubling on holidays and skyrocketing during festivals.


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