A sublime experience

A sublime experience

Imagine a cast of 70-odd people performing a play in three different open air settings; imagine the recreation of the life and landscape of Malenaadu of the mid-20th century; imagine a 750-page novel by Kuvempu brought to stage; imagine also a play spread over an entire night and enacted and directed by the National School of Drama alumni. That is Malegalalli Maadumagalu for you.

It was over five years ago that I first read about this play. It was supposedly the longest next only to Peter Brook's Mahabharatha and it had some famous names associated with it. Everything about it seemed epic and I couldn't wait to watch it. When the play's third edition to commemorate the 50th year of the novel was presented, I rushed to watch it at Kalagrama in Mallathahalli. The December night was cold and numbing my extremities but my senses were all perked. People of all ages were hurrying to get the best seats in the amphitheatre. With a brief introduction by the director and an insightful talk on the relevance of Kuvempu by a poet, the play started off.

The rugged landscape of Bangalore University campus had cleverly been used as the setting. The predominantly young cast danced to folk music and delivered dialogues some of which had been interspersed with modern references. The feudal system and other social mores of the period were depicted well. The play, with breaks in between, also had good music and period costumes. The physical feats on display were impressive and so were the emotive acting and subtle humour. The direction was top notch. All these added to make Malegalalli Madumagalu (The bride in the mountains) a remarkable play.

But what about Mallathahalliya janagalu, or the people of Mallathahalli? Some, it seemed, had come there to eat rather than watch the play. The constant crackle and scrunch of plastic bags being opened and food being chewed, requests for food and water to be passed to the seats made listening to the dialogues a demanding task. Many used their phones all the time and a few shamelessly littered the place. I came away without watching the whole play.

The team that created this excellent and unique experiment also had overlooked finer details. The play did not start on time, there was inadequate lighting between arenas and there were very few dustbins and toilets. A slightly reduced duration may have help too. For many, these may sound like quibbles. But God, after all is in the details and tending to these details would make a great experience perfect.