The stage was set

The stage was set
This photograph, retrieved from my album, takes me back to 1959, when as a young girl of eight years, I was chosen to play a role in the drama ‘Yaarivalu’. It was the Kannada version of Oscar Wilde’s ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’ and the translation was rendered by ML Srinivasa Shastry, founder of Hymamshu Jyothi Kala Peetha in Malleswaram, which was a sought-after school for kids those days and continues to be a popular cultural centre till date. Sri Shastry, determined to make the summer holidays colourful and full of fun, would gather his daughter Chitra and many of her friends to enact dramas in the school’s auditorium every summer. This type of activity is now popularly known as a ‘summer camp’!

My sister Meenakshi was a close friend of Chitra, who was also dear to me. For this drama, I was pulled in because I happened to be a cute little girl with lovely curly hair and a suitable voice. The role required me to wear a good frock which I did not have, but my mother rose to the occasion by stitching a new one at home and decked me up with a lot of talcum powder before sending me on to the stage. MJ Indira, Chitra A Rao, Anuradha Patankar, Sharadamma, Ratna and Vimala played the other roles and Gopi was the only man in the group. When I came across this photograph recently, it was Indira and Chitra who helped me recollect the entire event.

Later, we staged the same drama at Century Club, where the then Director of All India Radio (AIR), Sri Nateshan, liked it so much that he arranged a broadcast of the same on AIR later. From the money given to us by Century Club, our troupe even went on a picnic to Shimsha. Srinivasa Shastry was a good friend of Dasharathi Deekshit, the famous Kannada playwright who often gave Shastry his dramas and asked him to organise plays.

This experience propelled me to develop a keen interest in enacting dramas and participating in children’s programmes on AIR (Hakkiya Balaga). Shastry also organised thematic presentations of epics like ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharatha’ and famous tales like ‘Cinderella’, ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and such, using doll displays during Navaratri celebrations. The stories from these epics, narrated by our father to us as we walked together many a morning in the sprawling campus of Indian Institute of Science, made us appreciate Shastry’s displays in depth.

I was not a student of Hymamshu Jyothi Kala Peetha. However, 12 years later, it so happened that my marriage was solemnised on the very stage where our drama was staged! I got married to CR Sathya, a cultural enthusiast and an engineer at ISRO, and started participating in dramas even in distant places like Thiruvananthapuram, under the banner of Karnataka Association. Even now, at Anandanagar, Hebbal, where I stay, I gather my friends from the Ladies Club to enact dramas and audio-visual shows every year. They keep me going as they are fun and thanks to them, I have made a number of friends over the years.

(The author can be reached at crssathya@yahoo.com)

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