Theatre troupe brings Karnad on stage

The ‘Ninasam Tirugata’, the yearly theatre tour by Ninasam theatre repertory, is coming to the city this weekend

The Tirugata theatre repertory was started in 1985 as one of the wings of the Ninasam Theatre Institute. (Above) A scene from ‘Rakshasa Tangadi’.

Created in 1949 by eminent writer and dramatist KV Subbanna with an aim to make theatre accessible for all, Ninasam has now grown into a global platform for Kannada theatre. Metrolife caught up with Akshara KV, theatre director, playwright, and current treasurer of Ninasam society, to know what they have in store for us this year. 

How many shows are you planning this year?

We usually conduct between 80-100 shows in different districts, covering almost all of Karnataka, most of which are in taluk towns or still smaller places. This time, we have planned for 80-90 shows of two plays in around 45 places. One of the plays is Girish Karnad’s last play ‘Rakshasa Tangadi’ and the other one is called ‘Karna Sangatya’. The script of the latter is based on extracts from Kannada Kavya.

Any particular places where your plays are better received than others?

The reception is generally favourable everywhere. We have been doing this for almost 35 years and have been going to many of these places every year. However, certain areas respond more enthusiastically to certain plays. For example, a district in North Karnataka will relate more with a play in which characters have a North Karnataka dialect. Plays based on old Kannada texts are received better in southern Karnataka. Theatre is very unpredictable — sometimes in modern venues, the show might not turn out to be good while it might be well-received in places with many disadvantages. And it depends on the kind of culture the audience has. For example, in smaller places, they usually switch off their phones and stay focussed while this is not the case in bigger towns. 

Has the audience grown or dwindled over the years?

The numbers dwindled a little bit in the 90s, when television became popular. But that was a short-lived phenomenon and by 2000, we got the original numbers back. Nowadays, our audience strength can range from 500-2,000, depending on the place we are performing in, and comprises men, women and children.

What are the challenges you face?

Many places in Karnataka don’t have proper theatres; the exceptions being Bengaluru, Mysuru, Dharwad, Shimogga and Heggodu. In other places we mostly perform the plays in open grounds. Due to this, the quality of the performance might suffer when the audience is uncontrolled, the surroundings are not noise-free and so on.

What are the high points of running a theatre group for so many years?

Every year we have several memorable events. Last year, one of our shows was cancelled because of a by-election. But if we don’t perform, it’s a double loss because we don’t get the income and we have to bear the boarding expenses of our artistes for the night. So we ended up conducting the play in an old-age home. Many of our actors were moved by the experience they had there. 

Has any of your productions run into trouble?

We have never faced any kind of censorship. A few years ago, we did a play on the Northeast and we were worried it might create trouble, because it was critical of the AFSPA. But there was no resistance. 

It also has to do with the fact that we don’t want to create trouble, instead, we want to sensitise people. So, we don’t resort to a provocative manner. 

Do your students find meaningful work once they leave the institute?

Around 600 students have gone out of our institute in the last 35+ years. Until mid-90s, it was difficult for them but then television and cinema opened up many avenues. Nowadays, most of the TV serials have at least 2-3 of our students. Many of our other students have gone back to their small towns and established their own theatre companies. Roughly 80-90 per cent of our students are acting. 

 

Catch their plays

Two plays on October 12 and 13 at Rangashankara, JP Nagar. Girish Karnad’s Rakshasa Tangadi will be  staged on October 12, 3. 30 pm and 7.30 pm. Karna Sangatya, directed by Ganesh Mandarthi, will be staged on October 13, 3.30 p.m. and 7.30 pm.

The tickets are priced at Rs 150 and are available on bookmyshow.com and at Ranga Shankara box office.

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