Keeping the cultural pulse beating

Ideas to actions A performance by Melehalli theatre troupe in Tumakuru district.

Ninasam at Heggodu set the best example for keeping theatre movement active, vibrant and relevant in Karnataka. It not only produced many leading actors in cinema and theatre but also inspired many more to actively take up theatre as a profession. It gave the confidence that one need not be in a city to be a successful theatre initiative, but theatre movement can thrive in rural areas as well.  

Sanehalli theatre troupe in Chitradurga district is progressively contributing towards the same. There may be many more in the list. One among them is Damaruga Ranga Sampanmula Kendra in Melehalli village of Tumakuru district. This theatre team lead by Melehalli Devaraj, a senior theatre actor and director, is trying to keep alive theatre movement in this part of the state. 

It is more than two decades since this idea was mooted by Doddasiddaiah, who encouraged the team to take-up theatre activities in Melehalli in 1994. Initially, they have played many dramas in Melehalli, eventually registered the activities to be organised under the name Damaruga Ranga Sampanmula Kendra. It now owns its own theatre. 

Organising plays is not an easy task, especially in a village. It requires a lot of patience to mobilise and train them. It also involves time, effort and money. After constant efforts, now they have the confidence of mobilising the same for any activity. 

Reaching out to an audience is also a tedious task. Now, after two decades of continuous effort, it has gained popularity in Tumakuru town and surrounding villages for meaningful theatre activities. 

Initially, they started with plays, and over the years, they expanded the activities. Now they organise various types of theatre activities, summer camps to students, theatre festivals, theme-based plays, etc. Apart from entertainment, the troupe has used theatre for awareness building as well.

Many government schemes took the form of a street play and had an impact on people. So far, they have staged 21 plays, performed at over 250 different occasions, and organised around 20 theatre workshops and seminars. P Lankesh’s Teregalu, Chandrashekhar Patil’s Kodegalu and Kunta Kunta Kuruvatti, Da Ra Bendre’s Sayo Aata, Bhasa’s Dutavakya are some of the dramas they have performed. Kere Hoytu Bara Banthu is a street play organised in collaboration with Damaruga Ranga Sampanmula Kendra, which narrates the importance of lakes. The team has staged plays like Nanu Odabeku, which have inherent messages.  

The performed plays are across the genres — historical, mythological, social and issue-based. Melehalli Devaraj who has worked in all aspects of theatre has acted and directed many plays as well as directed a short film Annnadevana Atmahatye, on farmers’ suicides. He has guided youngsters at Rangayana, Mysuru; Samastaru, Harapanahalli; MES Rangashale and National School of Drama in Bengaluru. His brothers Melehalli Prakash and Melehalli Umesh are also involved in theatre activities.

A workshop for college students on Bhasa’s Dutavakya Bharata Bahubali and a play from Pampa’s Adipurana are some of their humble efforts to make literature relevant to present times. 

After two decades, Devaraj looks back and feels happy as many children he trained are now actively involved in theatre activities.

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Keeping the cultural pulse beating

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