I happened to make a flying visit to Bengaluru last week. I make it a point to engage into difference experience whenever I am there. It has been my quest to keep enhancing my understanding of Kannada, its cultural backdrop across different modes(such as music, drama, literature, language etc). I did not miss the opportunity on Friday July 10, to catch a Kannada play Kattale Belaku(literally means darkness and light) , the moment I read that morning about the various shows in the newspaper.
This play Kattale Belaku is a classic written by legendary Kannada playwright Shriranga. The play was at iconic theater Ranga Shankara. I always have been fascinated by the environs of this theater. It is a melting pot of Kannada(and even pan Indian) theater talent. There is a book and audio/video shop in the premises. The auditorium is very unlike the ones I have seen in Pune. The structure is almost like The Colosseum in Rome. I have watched many plays there and always enjoyed being there and spending time.
This particular 80-minute play was about the playwright himself who is declares in the opening monologue that he does not want to write anymore. The rest of the events after this monologue is all out attempts to change his mind and make him write again. The play seems to be a commentary on society’s general attitude towards plays as only entertainment device whereas he, the playwright does not want it to be treated that way and also does not wish to write to the demands of the market or to the likes and dislikes of the audiences.
The play has many humorous incidents as other key stake-holders in the theater ecosystem(drama company owner and its manager) try to speak it out with the playwright and make him write plays as per their wishes which, of course, are focused towards making better business. Please remember the play was written in 1959. Those days were he golden days of music dramas with greats such as Balgandharva, Gubbi Veernna and Narayanrao Huilgol and many others. For those curious ones reading this blog, who wish to know more about that era, please refer to my blog which covers translation of biographical work on Amirbai Karnataki who along with Goharabai Karnataki played roles in such plays.
The duo tries to ignite his mind by suggesting different popular plots around love story, murder mystery, historical and mythological events. But nothing works, though when these story ideas are described to the playwright, the same scenes take place around his house, indicating intermix of real and abstract to the audience. The play does not answer this intermix. The playwright’s determination is highlighted in the climax that he will not budge to the demands and pressure of stake-holders, but would really write only to his inspiration.