Theatre runs in their blood

Scene from the plays put up by Nama Tuluver Kala Sanghatane, Mudradi.

Mudradi, at the foothills of Western Ghats in Udupi district, has been drawing the attention of theatre buffs from far and wide in recent years.  Because of the activities of Nama Tuluver Kala Sanghatane (Natka), this otherwise nondescript village has emerged as a prominent spot on the theatre map of Karnataka. Not confining itself to Tulu, as the name connotes, it has brought on stage several acclaimed Kannada plays. Way back in 1985, Dharmayogi Mohan, a culture enthusiast, founded Nilayada Kalavidaru, a forum for cultural activities at Mudradi.  It was mostly Yakshagana in those days. On the occasion of its decennial year, Nilayada Kalavidaru was rechristened as Nama Tuluver Kala Sanghatane. The organisation that made a humble beginning has grown leaps and bounds in the 33 years of its existence.  

Initially, there used to be one drama a year. Later, a nine-day theatre festival Navarangotsava was started during Navaratri. On the occasion of its 20th anniversary, Nama Tuluver created a record of sorts by staging 24 plays in 20 days.The amateur troupe has taken its plays to Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Delhi, Dubai and many other places and brought plays from various parts of the country to Mudradi as well. It has staged around 40 dramas in around 1,500 shows so far. Sukumar Mohan, who heads Natka, has been honoured with CGK Award and Suvarna Ranga Samman.

Mudradi Rashtreeya Rangotsava is an annual event since its silver jubilee year.  The week-long national-level theatre festival has featured dramas in languages like Tamil, Telugu, Marathi and Konkani besides Kannada and Tulu. Many theatre veterans from across the country are recognised and honoured with awards on the occasion. The speciality of the troupe is that the entire Mohan family is into the field of drama. Theatre is the mainstay and the common thread that binds the family. 

Though none have any academic training in the field, they grew from drama to drama under the watchful eyes of the directors like Shreepada Bhat, Prasanna Heggodu, Krishnamurthy Kavatthar, Bhasuma Kodagu, Jeevanaram Sullia, Pramod Shiggaon Udyavara Nagesh Kumar, C Basavalingaiah, Sheena Nadoli, Gururaj Marpalli, Manjunath L Badiger, Dakshayini Bhat and Mallikarjuna Mahamane. The interest of the Mohan family has rubbed off on the youngsters of the neighbourhood. They too are part of the troupe now that comprises around 18 members. In fact, Nama Tuluver has brought out the theatre culture in this village . 

Sukumar Mohan, also a former member of the Karnataka Nataka Academy, admits the activities are not self-sustaining. “The occasional funds from government or otherwise are not sufficient for the scale of events that we organise,” says Sukumar.  But nothing comes in the way of their passion. As the activities grew, Natka felt the need to have an auditorium. Hence came up an open-air auditorium Chowtara Bayalu at Mudradi at a cost of around Rs 60 lakh.

Natka organises training programmes for students and theatre workshops. Many activities related to drama are held at frequent intervals. It has been a part of many street plays bringing awareness on social issues. Well-known artistes such as Hamsalekha, H S Shivaprakash, B Jayashree, Enagi Balappa, Master Hirannaiah,who had been invited on various occasions have appreciated the dedicated theatre activities in Mudradi.  The  theatre activities of Natka are so intense that Mudradi Grama Panchayat has named the area Natkadur. Perhaps a rare recognition to  a theatre  group. 

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