Long journey of theatre from princely states to Bahuroopi

Did you know that the first ever Kannada theatre school existed in 1045 AD itself? The City of Palaces Mysore had 70 odd theatre troupes since the erstwhile rule of Wadiyar’s, with the royal’s themselves founding a company and setting up a theatre for the purpose within the Palace.

Sampath, also from Mysore, a known character artist of the yore in sandalwood had his roots in theatre, with English plays being his forte. All these and many more interesting facts about theatre in  over six decades have been housed in the form of around 700 exhibits at ‘Bahuroopi 2014’ national theatre festival at Rangayana.

The garage of Rangayana has been converted into the gallery, with the exhibits from the collections of banker turned theatre enthusiast Srikanta Gundappa adorning the walls of the grimy space, now spick and span.

The exhibits are in the form of newspaper clippings, photographs, news letters, invitations, tickets, booklets, all about amateur theatre, much before Rangayana repertory entered the horizon.

A stone inscription found in Muguda, Dharwad by researcher Dr H K Ranganath brought to fore that the State’s first ever Kannada drama school existed during the reign of Someshwara I, a Kalyani Chalukya ruler.

It is documented in page 78 (first volume) of Bombay Karnatika Inscriptions. Over 70 troupes were actively involved in the cause of theatre, like- Natana Kalamela (Nakame), Ankura, Kalaraadhakaru, Abhiruchi (Nanjangud), Rangabhoomi Kriya Samithi, Kalajyothi, New Theatres, Chethana Kannada Sangha, Amara Kala Sangha, Suruchi Rangamane, Gejje Hejje, Apraavarambe, and Kadamba Ranga Vedike.

Maharaja’s College also had its own troupe with both the faculty and students actively taking part in the same, says Gundappa showing photographs. Sam’s Little Theatre was another troupe, with actor Sampath at the helm. Whenever there was a foreign guest, Sampath and his troupe were ready with English productions. The speciality of Sampath was, one play at a time, preceded by a year long rehearsal, said Gundappa.

“What began as a hobby of collecting materials, eventually developed into a passion. Though I have not travelled with my collection, I am satisfied with the opportunity that comes my way in the form of select occasions to exhibit them,and reach the right audience,” he said.

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