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Using the stage to convey a message

By Raghava M.

BANGALORE, APRIL 25. Campaigning for the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections had a number of "on the road campaigns" by political parties, crisscrossing different parts of the State. It included "Bharat Udaya Yatra" by the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, and "Vijaya Dundubi Yatra" by the Chief Minister, S.M. Krishna.

There was another yatra on the roads by 24 artistes of Guru Samsthe, a theatre troupe. Titled "BJP Ranga Yatre" (Theatre Tour), these artistes toured different parts of the State from April 3 to April 22. They campaigned for the BJP by using humorous skits, folk songs, dance and magic show. The shows were staged at public locations such as bus stands, railway stations, market places, and village panchayat offices.

While one group of 12 artistes named "Kadamba" toured from Basavanagudi Assembly Constituency to Bhatkal Assembly Constituency, the other team named "Mayura" toured from Kunigal to Ranebennur. In all, they covered 130 constituencies and staged shows of two hours duration.

The troupe used two vehicles. While the artistes travelled in a tempo traveller, a Swaraj Mazda with a fixed backdrop was used for staging the show.

Yashwant Sardeshpande, well-known artiste and leader of the troupe, designed the programme with assistance from the BJP State unit.

"It is promotion of a party through theatre medium," Mr. Sardeshpande said. Each presentation at the show was given a BJP orientation. The troupe staged three shows a day, he said.

Starting from "Ganesha Vandana," it had songs such as "Seredare BJPne Serabeku" (if you want to join a party then join BJP) composed to the tune of the popular Kannada song "Huttidare Kannadanadinali Huttabeku."

One of the interesting parts was a slide show of the BJP's achievements. As the "sutradar" of the show started explaining the work of BJP, a slide containing four accomplishments came up on a small frame of 7 feet X 4 feet. After placing 24 accomplishments the frame was turned around manually to show a picture of the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Conducting such a tour was nothing new to Mr. Sardeshpande. He had done a similar tour in select cities for promoting a soft drink.

It was a challenge for Mr. Sardeshpande to take up a political campaign. He had to study the BJP manifesto in detail. "I went through records and figures from the Government to study the work done by the BJP Government. I prepared the team to answer any questions that might be posed by the public while performing the show." It took him 20 days to prepare the content and the tour programme.

These artistes selected from Dharwad used the North Karnataka dialect. They avoided making derogatory remarks and comments against other parties. The humour skits for the show were written by M.S. Narasimhamurthy who wrote the script for Papa Pandu, a popular television serial.

In performing the show the troupe had to encounter several problems related to unscheduled shows, finance, and vehicle. But the programme, Mr. Sardeshpande said, gave an exposure for the budding artistes to display their drama skills throughout the State.

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