Remembering a legend

Theatre festival

As a tribute to legendary theatre personality late B V Karanth, Prathima Ranga Samshodana Prathishthana, in association with theatre groups in the City, recently conducted a four-day theatre festival at Ravindra Kalakshetra.

On day two of the festival, Sattavara Neralu, directed by B V Karanth, was staged by Benaka, the Kannada theatre troupe from Bangalore, which was founded by Karanth himself in 1974. Before the play began, two living legends of Kannada theatre, C R Simha and Narasimha Murthy shared their experiences with Karanth on the occasion. They spoke of how one’s inner self comes out in theatre and how important the audience is.The young and old, who were present in the auditorium, listened keenly as the two went back to the days of Karanth’s popular plays, Oedipus and Jokumaraswamy.

After their tribute, the play finally began. A period performance, set in medieval South India at a time when Brahmins and priests were the pillars of power and influence, the 120-minute drama explored the themes of philosophy, politics and culture. The intense play revolved around the life of Narayana, a Brahmin who was forcibly pulled into sanyasa and made the seer of a mutt.

He felt ashamed of his pretentious celibacy and was unwilling to give up all worldly desires. After a lot of requests, he was finally sent on a pilgrimage to Varanasi by the diwan, where he apparently drowned. Hearing this news, the diwan built a vrindavan in Narayan’s name. Narayana, who was actually still alive, came back and threatened to reveal the truth. Unfortunately, he found no believers in the sea of people clutching on to the belief system.

“It was a very different story and it made you question death and mortality. I really liked the way each character was defined because it brought out the clash in their individual philosophies very well,” says M S Shanmugam, a member of the audience. Through the use of drama and the chorus of eight musicians performing compositions by 16th century saint-poet, Purandaradasa, the play asked hard questions about religion and the belief systems we keep as a society.

“I liked the play when I saw it for the first time around five years ago. I still consider it as one of the best plays I have seen. The power of the drama is the way Karanth used the music to bring out the state of mind of the protagonist. For me, this will always be an enriching watch,” shares Adithi Manoharan, who attended the play.

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