Play on life


Gender and community polemics were highlighted in the plays

Benaka, recently performed Chandrashekhara Kamabar’s Jokumaraswamy at Puttana Chetty Town Hall, as a part of the Bengalore Habba celebrations. It was heartening to see the troupe performing to a full house, especially at the Puttana Chetty Townhall, which theatre troupes seem to have forgotten. One wonders why this auditorium was chosen for Kannada plays in the Habba. B.V. Karanth directed the play in 1972, for a high profile cast ranging from Girish Karnad to Nagabharana, who then was a young upcoming actor himself. Jokumaraswamy is about a bully, anostentatious zamindar, called Gowda (T.S. Girish), who is keen on keeping superstition, fear and illiteracy intact in his village. He has a roving eye and does not spare any woman. He woos Ningi (Nandini Murthy) for six months, before being overpowered by Gurya (Pavan). However the reality, denied by him, yet obvious to all is his impotency.

He is impotent not just in the matter of women but other areas as well. His wife Gowdti (Vidhya Venkataram) pines for a child. The tale is set around a day that is auspicious to Jokumaraswamy, the unseen protagonist and the god of virility.

The play shows Gowdti moving from being a devoted and neglected wife to one who accepts the love of Basannya (Mico Manju) a victim of the Gowda’s scheming ways. The play in itself does not judge the love between the Gowdti and Basannya. Gowda instigates the objection and the final murder of Basannya.

It seemed that the set of the play was kept simple to highlight Gowda’s massiveness. The costumes immediately create the feel of the folk. T. S. Nagabharana, easily set the pace of the play.

Gowda’s four flunkies were energetic, while Gowda was commendable and Mico Manju powerful. Vidya Venkataraman was a tad disappointing as Gowdti.

The mention of the parrot was lost, and probably not understood by an audience not acquainted with the play. Pavan stands out as Gurya, with his perfect comic timing and his acting abilities. Nandini Murthy as Ningi shows potential.

The songs are melodious and hummable. However, the constant discussion among the members of the mela was distracting. As singers, the mela, led by Kalpana Naganath, Srinath and Vijaya performed well.

Benaka’s attempt to train new, young artists for the play, keeping B.V. Karanth’s original directorial design is commendable. However one wonders if there are chances for fresh ideas to emerge by younger directors within the team?

Roopantara performed Mussanje Katha Prasanga based on P. Lankesh’s novel. The play directed by KSDC Chandru was scripted by Basavaraj.

The play, about the Veershaiva community, ridicules characters like Barmanna (Eshwar Dalla), who lay down the tenets to be followed by the people of his community. “How can Rangamma (Y.N. Uma) a milk seller and money lender ask for interest from the people of her own community?” “What about her daughter Savantri (Poornima), how can she marry a low caste man?” The play speaks of man’s low tolerance for successful women. Schemes and plots are made and executed. But all fall flat in front of the strong resolve of Rangamma not to succumb to the men. She easily lashes out her loud and acerbic tongue.Paradoxically, the play throws open hypocrisies of the men of the village who point fingers at Rangamma, who is the harbingerof what they perceive as ills. While Rangamma’s tirades do generate laughter, one wonders at the extremely abusive language she uses. The black humour goes completely unnoticed. The first part of the play is engaging. However, with the introduction of the characters Udupa (Chandru) and Mumtaz (Vinuta) the play loses its innate strength. Also wished the play wasn’t so long.

The light and music design of the play seemed to borrow greatly from the company style of plays. The stage setting was good. However, the production needs more refinement before it makes an impact.

DEEPTHI SHEKAR
The Hindu
22nd December 2006

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2 thoughts on “Play on life

  1. Let me start by saying that was nicely written. I was fishing for some information about this play and this is the only article that pops out on google. I am not sure whether this is the same deepthy that I used to know. If the name subbanna rings any bell, this is his son. By the way, we recently staged this play in california and I played basanya. It was directed by one of the original benaka cast members. Thought you would be interested to know 🙂

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