Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sadarame & Jagatjyothi Basaveshwara


I watched these two plays during the Rangashankara theatre festival.

In one line, this play was an example of “Whole is greater than the parts…”

Although the producers would like the audience to believe that the central character was Sadarame, a beautiful young woman, a lot of “stage space” (since I cannot say screen space) was taken up by Gubbi Veeranna's grand-daughter B. Jayashree who played a thief during the second half of the play.

There were many many characters and many stories/sequences/threads. There was this miserly seth from Andhra and his son. There was this prince who was in love with Sadarame, friends of Sadarame, another king who cast his eyes upon her, an evil woman who is an accomplice of the bad king, the thief…and many more…

It was a very long play. The stage was set up very well (painted backdrops, doorways with plastic flowers and creepers). The costumes, the music and the time during which the play is set, the historic period of monarchy, made it all look very charming.

The play opened with the rendition of a classical song (sung by the entire troupe), that I thought was very well sung, as though by professionals.

To add to this charm, the opening few scenes had a good looking prince who had fallen in love and was singing love songs for Sadarame whom he had not met yet. The play thus started with a promise.

There were some characters that provided much comic relief – the deaf woman, the miserly son of the seth(businessman) from Andhra, and others that had the audience falling from their chairs.

But then, the story went this way and that and that and this…to most improbable situations…
Many other threads came into picture.

At some places, it was an overkill.
Humour was repetitive – it reminded me of those people who narrate jokes and when people burst out laughing, they repeat the joke, especially the last part to make people laugh once more…
It was too long. The story wasn’t quite a story… just the stuffing together of many sequences to somehow make the audience take interest and laugh.

Dialogue delivery wasn’t great…but mysteriously, all of them had well trained voices and sang really well.

You can certainly watch it once.

Jagajyoti Basaveshwara

A very old play indeed! It has been revived. It’s the legend of Basaveshwara popularly known as Basavanna in North Karnataka.
There was a motley mix of various characters on stage. A king, his subjects, ministers, Basaveshwara, his wife, haralayya, his wife, a seth from Andhra and his son. And many more.

The team was from Dharwad and did a good job of presenting the culture and language (dialect) of North Karnataka.(I think so!)

The centre of attraction was a 95 year old Yenagi Balappa who played the role of “Shivasharana Haralayya” in this new production.

He was returning to stage after 25 years. Nataraj Yenagi was his son who played a member of the king’s court and Adish Yenagi, Natraj’s son also played some role.
Artistes of 3 generations performed in the same play.

The play was entertaining on the whole. There was the old fashioned comedy of the black and white movie days. Yenagi Nataraj was particularly good and provided much comic relief.

But the play could have been shorter by at least 40 minutes. Some dialogues, scenes were boring and unnecessary. The play lacked a certain class, not to mention the fact that the artistes were mispronouncing certain Kannada words which according to me is unpardonable.

I still don’t understand why the man who played Basavanna’s role had that nameless expression on his face. He did not smile once. He looked constipated. His eyes looked watery. There was too much paint on his face. I don’t know if that layer of paint was the reason why he could not animate his face. A lot of people mistakenly believe that enlightened men do not react, do not smile, laugh or weep… not many truly understand the meaning of the word “Sthitapragnya”.

You can watch this play once, if only to know how plays in the older days used to be performed.

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