Monday, April 19, 2010

A Night In Mysore - Outlook, MAGAZINE | APR 26, 2010

All adaptations are challenging, but how does one adapt to the stage a 750-page novel that travels leisurely in nature, spans across a 100 years, has no apparent centre and no principal characters?

The answer to such a creative conundrum comes in Rangayana’s nine-hour-long theatrical adaptation of Malegalalli Madhumagalu (A Bride from the Wilds), a classic work by Kannada literary icon Kuvempu. The state-owned repertory company, based in Mysore, has worked for over six months to bring it to the stage with 150 characters, 58 scenes, 48 songs and 67 actors on four adjoining stage-sets. The play will begin at nine in the night and run till six in the morning, with four 20-minute intervals. The last time such an effort was mounted—at least in non-traditional theatre—was for Peter Brook’s Mahabharata in 1985, which too was a nine-hour-long venture.

Unlike Brook’s show, however, this one won’t tour the world or across India, as its director, C. Basavalingaiah, a former National School of Drama graduate, has a clearly defined political position. “My play is not an export-quality good. I’m not interested in taking it to a pan-Indian or pan-world audience. If people are interested, they have to come to Mysore to watch it in its natural setting. When all that is local is being lost, this play to me is about recovering my culture, my language and its nuances,” he told Outlook.

Even the four stage-sets that subvert the conventional proscenium theatre will make it difficult for the play to travel. It is set in the natural precincts of the Rangayana campus, portions of which have a forest-like ambience. The sets make use of the tall trees, thick bushes and the undulations, and an artificial pond. As the action moves, so does the audience from one stage to another.

The nine-hour-long play will have 150 characters, 58 scenes, 48 songs and 67 actors on four stage-sets.
Equally fascinating—in fact, worthy of a monograph—is the story of how the script of this complex novel evolved. “I was initially diffident,” admits K.Y. Narayanaswamy, who undertook the mammoth task. “It was a dense, reflective novel full of socio-cultural details. Given theatre’s limitations, not everything can be converted into spectacle.” What exactly were the challenges he faced? “The novel is a story of man and nature, they are inseparable in it,” he says. “But on stage, you can put up only a man’s world. That was the first serious challenge I faced. However, when I re-read the novel, I found a number of dramatic elements, which needed a strong central idea to hold them together. That was the second big challenge—there was no centre in the novel. It’s even difficult to pinpoint and say who the bride of the wilds is in the novel. It lends itself to multiple interpretations. The novel does not begin or end anywhere. So, for the stage, we needed to discover a new way of retelling and restructuring the novel. We needed an external narrator with a psychological distance: that’s what we created.”

The script now centres around a lost ring: its journey from one place to another, from one hand to another. People from the Arjuna Jogi community, predominantly found in the Malnad region and traditionally known for kidnapping married women, act as the principal narrators in the play. Once Narayanaswamy had the basic structure of the play in place, he culled out dialogues from the novel with the help of four collaborators and wove them into the final script. In all, he says, it took him a month to get the script ready. He spent another fortnight writing the 48 songs for which Hamsalekha has composed music.

Malegalalli Madhumagalu will premiere on April 23. Even if the effort were to fail, the troupe feels it would still be a ‘big victory’, because they would have fulfilled an important cultural duty.

Bangalore Mirror, Dated 19-04-2010

All in a night's play
Kuvempu's Malegalalli Madumagalu, is being adapted to theatre and the first show will be on April 23 at the Rangayana in Mysore. The nine-hour play is set to create a record in modern theatre history, says Nagaraja Dixit
Nine hours of action, 70 artists testing their talent on stage, four 30-minute intervals..., and the audience moving from one location to the other in the Rangayana premises during each interval to watch the play. Wow! that's one drama of mammoth proportions. With the theatre adaptation of Malegalalli Madumagalu, Rangayana and the people behind the magnum opus are looking at breaking all records in modern theatre history.

Situated in Mysore and till recently embroiled in controversies, Rangayana has ventured into this new experiment as part of its 21st anniversary. Malegalalli Madhumagalu, a well-known mega novel of Rastrakavi Kuvempu has been adapted into theatre and will be staged for the first time on April 23 and then on alternate days up to May 11.

The Rangayana premises: All set for the mammoth production

The project is unique in many ways. You might have seen a yakshagana or a village drama that is staged through the night. But this is something different as modern theatre has never witnessed such a fete of gargantuan proportions --- the play, which starts at 8.30 pm, will conclude at around 5.30 am the next day. This makes it the longest duration play in the history of modern theatre. Adding to it is the fact that the play has been produced in a short duration - just five months, to be precise. That's not an easy task considering that British director Peter Brook's mega play Mahabharath, which had a running time of eight hours and was first staged in 1985, took 13 years of production.

The play will be performed in stages erected at different locations likeVanaranga, Dundukana, Puthani Vana and Rangadarshini and interstingly, the audience will have to move from one stage to another to watch it.

Well known theatre personality and former Director of Rangayana C. Basavalingaiah who is directing the play, said apart from Rangayana artistes, 50 artistes, mostly amateurs will be depicting over one hundred roles in the play.

The entire story is set in the picturesque Malnad area, in Thirthahalli taluk, which is blessed with lush greenery , rivers, streams and hills. To depict the region was one of the biggest challenges. Art director H K Dwarakanath took up the challenge and with some modification he has converted the Rangayana premises to look like the Malnad region.

"It is our effort to come out of the comfort zone of conventional theatre. Kuvempu ( K V Puttappa) has a special and unique identity in the Kannada literary world for his out-of-the-box thinking. His masterpiece Malegalalli Madumagalu is a great example of a new wave in writing,” says C Basavalingaiah.

"We have used all techniques of the theatre including intimate theatre. However, the play stands out for many things. We have used famous folk forms like "Arjuna Jogi" "Sudugadu Siddaru" and "Ati Kalinja" to narrate the play," he added.

National School of Drama alumnus Basavalingaiah, who conceptualised and worked for the last 25 years to bring this magnum opus on stage feels that the play will inspire the audience to read the novel. "I feel the play will be a great success if it inspires and create an urge to read the novel and I am sure it will," he observed.

Malegalalli Madhumagalu is a complex novel that depicts the conflict between tradition and modernity, Christianity and Hinduism, love and marriage, and the individual and society in the Malnad region of Karnataka in the 19th century.

It was a great challenge to adopt 700 pages of the mega novel to the theatre form. K Y Narayanaswamy and Krishnaprasad took the challenge and succeeded. Famous music director Hamsalekha has scored music for the drama which has 48 music tracks. Kannada and Culture department readily accepted to finance the project.

By Shwetha Pangannaya

“The theatre is so endlessly fascinating because it's so accidental. It's so much like life,” said American playwright, Arthur Miller. Stage and artistes come alive only when they ‘ play’ to an audience, and the audience become a part of the play. Rangayana, India’s only State-run repertory, is conducting such a unique experiment by staging Kuvempu’s ‘Malegalalli Madumagalu’ for nine hours from April 23 to May 11 on alternative days from 9 pm to 5 am.

‘Malegalalli Madumagalu’ is a magnum opus of Rashtrakavi Kuvempu. The 750-page opus is much more than just that, it is a great story simple in its narration with down-to-earth characters with a beautiful portrayal of life in the heart of Karnataka — Malnad. In Malnad, typical villages are non-existent because every house is in the middle of nowhere, with their neighbour some miles away. But there is always the hierarchy of a mini society with a head for the village who is wealthy, the workers, the poor farmers, and a priest for a temple nearby. The play depicts a life unknown to the urbanites but very much in existence, though in a modern version, in the Malnad region.

The much-hyped play is to be staged for nine hours with intervals for every two hours. And in that interval, the spectators have to move to another stage, where a different scene will be enacted. ‘Malegalalli Madumagalu’ got wide media coverage because of its length rather than the story which was a classic and which should have been in the limelight.

When SOM went to speak to C. Basavalingaiah, former Director of Rangayana and one of the most versatile Directors in Kannada theatre, he willingly gave up his two-hour break in the midst of a rehearsal for ‘Malegalalli Madumagalu’ to contemplate on the birth of Rangayana, his tenure as a Director, theatre in India and Karnataka and his close-to-heart experiment with the play.

Star of Mysore (SOM): You were the Director of Rangayana for six years and during your tenure, many new dramas were staged.

Basavalingaiah: Yes. My entry into Rangayana is a long story. In the 1970s, I and a few other theatre enthusiasts went to join the National School of Drama (NSD) in New Delhi because we were very much influenced by B.V. Karanth who headed NSD for sometime. But Karanth left NSD after I joined there. Back then, theatre meant staging plays of Shakespeare, Bertolt Brecht and other foreign playwrights. Indian theatre meant Hindi, Bengali and other North Indian plays. Even in Karnataka, Kannada plays were not creating much wave.

Theatre was for the intellectuals and men. Common people, especially women, feared joining theatre. Hence we persuaded Karanth to come to Karnataka and stage Kannada plays, reaching out to rural audience. That was the start of theatre revolution in the State. We started staging Kannada stories by our own writers. Watching such plays, rural populace lost their reservations and started joining theatre.

I became Rangayana Director after B.V. Karanth and experimented with Kusumabale, Gandhi vs Gandhi, Shoodra Tapasvi etc. (They are considered the masterpieces in Kannada theatre).

SOM: You started Chinnara Mela which has become very popular now.

Basavalingaiah: Yes. I was born and brought up in Bangalore city. Reading ‘Malegalalli Madumagalu’ some 25 years ago opened up a whole new social side to me which I was not familiar with. That is one of the reasons I started Chinnara Mela. I want to introduce urban children to rural games, customs and way of life. I want to involve children in plays like Malegalalli Madumagalu where they will be able to explore a wholly different way of life they can not see here in city. The kids can not even frequent their grandparents’ house (Ajji mane) in villages during holidays because now they too live in cities. Children have lost all touch with village life.

SOM: Why did you particularly choose this major work?

Basavalingaiah: I chose the story because I was fascinated by it since many years. I was captured by the life of the people who, though living in a hierarchical society during 19th century, are simple and unpretentious. You know, there are no heroes, heroines or villains in the story.

A hero at one time may be not-so-heroic in the next scene. And the story, despite de-picting the life of highly religious rural people, at times becomes secular due to the broad-mindedness of its characters.

SOM: There is no complexity in the story?

Basavalingaiah: There is complexity in the story, but not in the relationship between the characters. The beauty of the story lies in its realistic and straight-forward characters.

SOM: Those are the characteristics we naturally found among the Malnad people in those times.

Basavalingaiah: Yes. That is why Kuvempu, Poornachandra Tejasvi and other such writers focussed on them and successfully brought out the simpli-city in them. That is why their books are great to read.

SOM: Why this experiment now?

Basavalingaiah: As I already told you, the urbanites are forgetting the beauty of rural life, most are not even aware of it. And Kannada theatre is not conducting many experiments nowadays; especially Rangayana which should have been very active, is in a dormant stage. I want to revive Kannada theatre through this play. Our theatre is being suffocated with frames of set rules. I want to ‘de-frame’ the theatre through ‘Malegalalli Madumagalu.’ That’s what I am teaching to the youngsters who are part of this play. They are not restricted to a place, instead they walk, move as they want to and enact their roles in their own way.

There are about 70 artistes; 50 youth among them were unemployed and from rural areas. Three months ago, they did not know anything about acting. Now some of them are playing lead roles. While recruiting, I did not ask their qualifications or degrees.

One of them, who is working as a salesgirl, is a great poetess. She is also a good actor and playing a lead role. If I had asked for a degree, I would not have got so many talented youth. This is the beauty of this experiment. It became a stage for unearthing young talents who would have remained hidden otherwise. It is a training camp for them.

SOM: How is the public response to the play?

Basavalingaiah: Very good. The tickets for the first day, April 23rd, are all sold out. I have bookings from all over the State — Shimoga, Bangalore, North Karnataka — for five more days.

SOM: Considering it a grand success, will you take it to other districts?

Basavalingaiah: Yes, of course. The play is already a success. We will stage it anywhere where proper large space with trees like Rangayana is available.

SOM: What about seating arrangements? Will you be able to seat 300 people comfortably?

Basavalingaiah: Yes. We are making arrangements to seat 300 people comfortably for two hours in all the venues.

SOM: Why move the audience from one venue to another?

Basavalingaiah: The audience are always stationary during all plays. But now I want them to be part of the play.

SOM: I heard people speaking that as the play will be staged the whole night and the ticket is priced just at Rs.40, it may not be safe for women to come and watch.

Basavalingaiah: No, it is not true. Rangayana has its own audience and reputation. And women, families regularly come to watch the plays here. We have staged many plays for free. But we have not had any trouble from miscreants. Let miscreants too come; they may change their attitude after watching the play. Such instances have happened in Kannada theatre. If it happens, the play will truly be a success. It means the play has the ability to transform the society.

As for the price, many people asked me to increase it to more than Rs. 200. But I do not want the play to become the sole right of the rich. It is for the common people and if they should come, the price should be low. They are the true critics of any play, not some intellectuals who come only for criticising.

SOM: I also heard that people would not watch a play for nine hours and it’s too long.

Basavalingaiah: It is silly. People watch all-night Yakshagana bayalata. In villages, families come and sit for night-long plays too. What’s the difficulty in watching a play for nine hours here? Women watch TV serials daily for more than 10 hours at home. Let them come, sit and watch our experiment once. They will like it. And I am sure they will come back to watch more plays in the future.

Malegalalli Madumagalu : A 9-hour Stage Adaptation

Dates: April 23 to May 11 on alternate days, that is on Apr.23, 25, 27, 29,

May 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11. Time: 9 pm to 5 am. Price: Rs. 40: Seats: 300

Courtersy: Star of Mysore, Dated 17-04-2010

Friday, April 2, 2010

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

‘Bahuroopi’ to be a low-key affair this time

The Hindu-Karnataka-Mysore Dt.29-12-2009, By Muralidhara Khajane

Old plays like ‘Gandhi vs. Gandhi’ to be staged again

This is the second time that the festival may be held without a permanent director for Rangayana

The festival to be held in February or March will be the eighth such festival

Rangayana has to its credit seven national-level theatre festivals.

Mysore: “Bahuroopi”, the theatre festival being conducted by the State-run-theatre repertory Nataka Karnataka Rangayana from the past seven years in Mysore will be held either in February or in March 2010, according to sources in the Department of Kannada and Culture.

Significantly for the second time the festival is being conducted in the absence of permanent director. “Bahuroopi-2008” was held after the former director of Rangayana Chidambara Rao Jambe demitting office and now “Bahuroopi” will be conducted after B. Jayashree resigned from the post of the director.

The sources said that it was tentatively decided to organise “Bahuroopi” both in Mysore and Dharwad. Popular theatre groups from across the country will stage plays on the occasion.

However, this year’s “Bahuroopi” will be a low-key affair this time in the wake of havoc caused by floods in north Karnataka.

The sources add that the theatre lovers will not be disappointed as good quality plays to be staged. It is yet to be decided whether the theatre festival should be a three-day or a five-day affair.

Rangayana has been organising “National Theatre Festival” for the past few years. It is one of the major theatre festivals in the country. Artistes, writers and theatre personalities from different parts of the country will participate in the festival.

Each theatre festival has a specific theme based on which the plays to be staged are selected. “Akka”, the first National Theatre Festival organised by Rangayana witnessed the staging of plays which focussed on the problems being faced by women.

The plays staged during the second festival focussed on the problems of the downtrodden and the exploited. The plays in a way advocated equality of all people in society and stressed on the need to create equal educational, economic and social opportunities for all sections of society. The third festival focused on the problems children face in our society and the state of children’s theatre in our country.

The fourth festival focused on the impact of liberalisation on indigenous culture and the fifth dwelt on the agrarian crisis and the phenomenon of farmers’ suicide.

In the sixth festival, Rangayana focused on the tribal culture, which is facing threat because of the ‘post-liberal’ economy. Ironically, the seventh festival that was organised by Rangayana had “Freedom” as its theme. According to sources, it is yet to be decided as to what the theme of this year’s “Bahuroopi” should be. Though it will be a low-key affair it is unlikely to be cancelled as it is thought that such a move might set a bad precedent.

However, this year’s “Bahuroopi” will be a pure theatre experience for the people as other programmes such as handicrafts mela, book exhibition, film festival, sculpture workshop, seminars and symposiums have not been planned.

It is to be noted that all these were a part of the theatre festivals held in the previous years.

The sources added that the Rangayana artistes had something significant to offer during this year’s “Bahuroopi” and every care will be taken to safeguard the image of the festival.

Meanwhile, several plays that were staged earlier will be staged yet again.

The plays that are likely to be staged yet again include “Gandhi vs. Gandhi”, “Gunamukha”, “Krishne Gowdara Aane” and “Pugalendi Prahasana”.

The Department of Kannada and Culture has requested a noted theatre personality to conduct a workshop at Rangayana.

The workshop is expected to begin shortly.

According to the sources, it is likely that a popular theatre personality from some other part of the country will be given the responsibility of directing a new play.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Hindu - Wednesday, Nov 25, 2009

Karnataka - Mysore

Lingadevaru Halemane named Rangayana head

MYSORE: Theatre repertory Rangayana got a new Director with the State Government clearing the name of well-known linguist and writer Lingadevaru Halemane on Tuesday.

When contacted, Dr. Halemane, who recently retired from the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL), said that the news came as a complete surprise. “I was not in the race for the director’s post nor did I lobby for it though I was under pressure from various quarters. Though I am yet to receive the official orders, I was informed about the Government’s decision by Jayachamaraje Urs, Secretary, Department of Kannada and Culture, who called to congratulate me,” said Dr. Halemane.

“Actually I am in a dilemma as I was preparing to take charge as Chairman of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts. But I have been associated with Rangayana since its inception and have been a member of the Ranga Samaja. I have also been closely involved with all its activities, including conducting seminars during the national theatre festivals. I am also aware of the problems plaguing Rangayana and hence am thinking of accepting the post,” he said.

When asked what would be his first priority on taking charge, Dr. Halemane said that he was interested in the welfare of the artistes and would take steps to ensure Rangayana’s robust growth.

Dr. Halemane was offered the post of Rangayana director a few years ago but CIIL was reluctant to depute him. “Now that I have retired from CIIL, there will be no problem in accepting the post,” said Dr. Halemane. The post fell vacant after B. Jayashree quit exactly one month ago after a series of controversies.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Article on Rangayana by Nataraja Honnavalli