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Deccan Herald » Spectrum » Detailed Story
Right on the cue
Nataka Karnataka Rangayana, a theatre repertory in Mysore has been catering to the palate of the theatre lovers, write Anjali Kaiappa B B and Islahuddin N S.
Solisa beda, gelisaiyya... was the song sung at the inaugural function of Nataka Karnataka Rangayana, invoking the almighty not to let defeat embrace them, but to always help them win. And it was granted. Ever since its inception this repertory has grown in leaps and bounds.

Situated beside the picturesque Kukkarhalli Lake in the premises of the Kalamandira of Mysore, Nataka Karnataka Rangayana has come a long way from the make-shift stages to state-of-the-art professional theatre repertory that it presently is. The presence of Rangayana has earmarked a distinct place for Mysore in the theatre map of the country. The Government of Karnataka established this professional weekend theatre repertory in the year 1989.

It is the only Government sponsored repertory in the country. B V Karanth, the founder director whose brainchild this is, said that to breathe drama and live theatre should be the way of life at Rangayana.

Today Rangayana is a well-knit organisation with around 40 members, which include actors, technicians and the administrative staff. Eminent theatre stalwarts like B V Karanth, Basavalingiah and Prasanna have been the directors of this prestigious repertory. Rangayana has three stages within one establishment. The first to be developed was ‘Vanaranga,’ an open-air theatre.

The stage is set in harmony with nature with steps built around for seating. One can enjoy a play or understand a folk art with foliage on stage. Then there is the proscenium stage called ‘Bhoomigeetha.’ This indoor stage has perfect acoustics and is capable of providing lighting to high quality productions. The third and the smallest of the three is ‘Sri Ranga’ and is ideal for one-man shows, small productions, puppetry etc.

The repertory also has a number of programmes other than week-end productions. ‘Rangakishora,’ a wing of Rangayana, is a vocational programme designed to cater to the needs of children interested in theatre. The Swedish SIDA and ITI projects support this programme. Another feature is the Bharathiya Ranga Shikshana Kendra, a one-year certificate course that imparts theatre education to theatre enthusiasts.

Rangayana is also known for organising theme-based national festivals that receive overwhelming response by theatre lovers in the city. Akka - the first of its kind - was a theatre festival for the empowerment of women. ‘Bahuroopi’ followed this, and the trend continues.

Other notable features of Rangayana are Sri Ranga Mahithi Kendra which also conducts theatre based work-shops, seminars and camps throughout the year. Rangayana has something in store for the tiny tots too in the form of ‘Chinnara Mela,’ a theatre based summer camp held every year. For the lovers of literature a well-equipped library with ample amount of material of both Indian and foreign origin is also available in the vicinity. One could become a member of this library by registering at the repertory. Today, Rangayana has the distinction of going online, with a website being launched.

While professional theatre flourishes here, it is also the cradle of nourishment for amateurs. Come evening and the premises is a hub of activity. Innumerable troupes flock here for their rehearsals. Mysore has the distinction of being home to several amateur theatre groups. Samudaya, Kadamba Vedike, Namana, GPIER Theatre Group, Janamana, Samashti, Natana, etc are some of the popular amateur groups here. Many of these amateur artists are students from institutions in the city; added to this is a peppering of professionals from other fields.

Before venturing out of the campus, a treat of Punnarapalli and Sogade Beru juices in the canteen with its low seating, artistic fervour and blaring ancient music is a must. For those who wouldn’t mind spending a rupee or two, a peep into ‘Kuteera,’ a tiny ensemble of artifacts and books would prove interesting. When leaving, some would enjoy the visual treat of the sculptures placed around, while others would wonder at the train passing nearby. Everything here adds to the dramatic effect of ‘Rangayana.’

“Theatre is a language of many languages,” says the indomitable Chidambara Rao Jambe, the director of Nataka Karnataka Rangayana. Enacted and visualised literature, music and lighting, costume and make-up, set and properties - theatre is a blend of all these, he explains. Most people restrict theatre to mainstream plays in the cities, he rues. However, real art is inclusive of folk forms in the rustic villages of the country, which unfortunately are hugely ignored. Yet he says that there a number of groups still touring mud tracks, entertaining, educating and propagating to the masses.

The director asks, “Doesn’t the common man sometimes need to unwind in a make believe world?” He goes on to add, “Once in a while theatre is a better experience than reality itself. For a deeper understanding of reality it is sometimes important to dramatise. It allows you to be what you are not. But at the same time, it gives you a deeper understanding of the truth.”

The threat of the invasion of the electronic media is met with a firm nod, which translates into a decisive ‘no.’ Theatre does not lack audience but it surely does need people working with dedication. Each medium has its own limitations. In theatre it is confined to space and reach, but the beauty of this art form lies in its limitations itself. He says, people have now developed a holistic approach; they are looking beyond the entertainment quotient and resort to theatre to beat stress.

The director says compared to the other states, the State government has been very encouraging and supportive towards theatre. However an initiative that would be timely would help sustain future growth in theatre and other forms of art.
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