Sharp wit, politics dominated Hirannaiah’s theatre

Dramatist Master Hiranaya (centre) took center stage and enthralled audiences with "Mukhmal topi".

Master Hirannaiah’s strong views and quick analysis of politics transcended theatre and pervaded his public life.

He claimed often on the stage that he was the only person who could poke fun at the tallest of leaders, including former prime minister H D Deve Gowda, without the fear of backlash. When an incident in Mysuru, changed that belief, Hirannaiah, who used the choicest of words against the chief minister, announced he will withdraw from the public life.

When a group of admirers met him later, the theatre person noted that it was not his remarks against then chief minister Siddramaiah but the media reports that
made him feel “enough is enough”. “What was played out in the media was not what happened. I am saddened by the way the incident is being reported with a casteist angle,” he had said.

In his book on Kannada theatre, Gudihalli Nagaraj notes that Hirannaiah combined his oratory with his distinct satire bordering on dark humour. “Critics point out that Master Hirannaiah’s plays are dominated by dialogues and whether such a form could indeed be called a play. But, viewed from the other angle, Hirannaiah has successfully established that skilful dialogue delivery can also be a drama,” he writes.

Besides, such questions about his theatre skills have been dismissed by the sheer popularity of his plays like ‘Lanchavatara’, ‘Nadubeedi Narayana’ and ‘Makmal Topi’. Younger artistes who had the opportunity to learn from Hirannaiah remember the way he could bend the irony in its face and show the other aspect of a character.

“He could enact the character of a corrupt policeman without taking away the problems and suffering intrinsic to that character. So we have the scene of the policeman guarding a dead body while all others are celebrating Ugadi,” actor Mandya Ramesh noted.

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