The life of a legend

Theatre Personality

B V Karanth is a household name for drama enthusiasts — not only in Karnataka but all over India. Hailing from a small village called Babukodi in Mangalore, he went on to become the director of the National School of Drama (NSD) in New Delhi. Karanth, it seems, has left his imprint throughout the nation.

Tracing his long and diverse career, film-maker Ramachandra P N screened a documentary based on his life at Suchitra Auditorium recently.The documentary was elegant and brilliantly edited. Tracing the vast career of Karanth was a huge task, which the film-maker beautifully managed.

The documentary showed the thriving passion Karanth had for theatre. He was a perfectionist. Singing was a prerequisite to being in theatre earlier and purely for this reason, Karanth learnt classical singing. His love for music went beyond singing — he also became a lyricist and music composer for all his plays. He started generating music out of vessels such as spoons, tumblers and plates.

In the documentary, a friend of Karanth says, “Karanth was very observant. He was always in search of rhythm — in the loud noises on the city roads, he was still finding a rhythm. One day, he saw school students playing with their tiffin boxes and spoons. He thought, ‘why can’t I make music out of these?’ So, he called them all together and tried to find a rhythm. He became successful and those techniques are an important part of theatre schools today.”

U R Ananthmurthy, Jnanpith award winner and also a part of the documentary, says, “His Hindi was so good that people could hardly believe that he was a Kannadiga. One of the special qualities of Karanth’s was his ability to adapt a Kannada play and make it very popular in Hindi.” Overall, the documentary was appreciated by the audience. Later on, there was an interactive session with the director. Many personalities, who were students of Karanth, were enthusiastically reminiscing about their experiences with the man.

Rajkumar, one of them, says, “Karanth was very meticulous in his approach. But one quality of his that I admired was his ability to let others be free. He always gave actors their freedom and space. And he was very democratic. If one disagreed with his point of view, he could always speak to him about it.”

B S Keshav Rao, who wrote Karanth’s biography, adds, “Karanth had the habit of forgetting everything. I had 56 sittings with him before writing his biography and every time he forgot something, his wife Prema had to come to his rescue.”

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