She lived in hearts, now is in a shed

Drama in real life

turn of fate: Shakuntala Jawalimath with her son Prakash. DH PhotoAs she would exit the stage, there would be plaintive, insistent demands for a repeat performance.

That was Shakuntala Jawalimath long ago.

In a car shed of a house in Old Badami Nagar here, an aged woman bends over the stove. She is cooking for her mentally challenged son, who is in his forties, or is it fifties? The shed contains all her earthly belongings. Some pots and pans, a trunk containing faded clothes, some plastic containers, a can of insect spray, some medicine bottles. She is not dressed in a dazzling saree, her blouse can do with some mending, and there are no flowers in her grey hair.

This is Shakuntala Jawalimath now.

The one-time star of the “Company” theatre in north Karnataka is barely managing to eke out two square meals for herself and her son, Prakash, who is unmarried.

Her husband Basavaraj, along with whom she formed a popular pair on stage, died three years ago. Never financially secure, Shakuntala and her son now face a severe crisis.

Unable to pay rent, they shifted from a rented house to the car shed.

Prakash Jain, who owns the house of which the car shed is a part, has now put the house on sale. Tough luck.

Three daughters, one of them a theatre artiste, are married and want Shakuntala to live with them.

“They too work for a living. I don’t want to be a burden on them,” says a proud Shakuntala, who tries to manage with her pension of Rs 1,000 a month and the Rs 400 pension for the mentally challenged that Prakash gets.

Basavaraj was 11 when he joined the touring theatre. He wed Shakuntala when she was 12. Four years later, the first child, a daughter was born. As the family grew, Shakuntala donned the grease paint to supplement the family income. She learnt Bharatanatyam and Kathak.

The couple worked with many theatre companies including Yenagi Balappa’s Kala Vaibhava Natya Sangha, the Gajanana Natya Sangha of Jamkhandi, the Muradayya Company of Sindhanur and even some ‘fly-by-night’ companies, says Shakuntala. The couple even formed their own company - the Sri Siddalingeshwara Vijaya Natya Sangha in Dharwad.

For 18 years, the company had great success with their productions including ‘Hadedavva’, ‘Hemareddy Mallamma’, ‘Sampathige Savaal’, ‘Baduku Bangaravaayithu’. When the company began failing, Shakuntala began giving dance performances to feed the family, including at Solapur in Maharashtra.

“I never went to school. I used to learn my lines in plays by asking others to read out the script,” recalls Shakuntala. Ten years ago, she gave up dancing and participating in plays due to recurrent pain in knees.

Basavaraj’s death was a big blow. “I never lived in comfort. It was always a struggle. And now, I am old,” says Shakuntala with tears glistening in her still bright eyes.

And the one-time heartthrob of the north Karnatka theatre connoisseurs, Shakuntala Jawalimath, lives in a car shed, dreading the day when Prakash Jain finds a buyer for his house, because she and a helpless son have nowhere to go.

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