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Of changing equations

TRAINED IN theatre at Rangayana under B.V. Karanth, Mandya Ramesh manages to find time to do theatre though he came out of Rangayana several years ago and is now a busy cinema and television artiste. Natana, the theatre group he founded in Mysore two years ago, has been conducting theatre workshops and training youngsters in the art of theatre.

The group already has several very competent productions to its credit. Natana presented its latest production, Nammappa, at Rangashankara recently. The play was directed by Arun Murthy, a recent graduate of Ninsam Theatre Institute.

Nammappa is a dramatisation of two Kannada short stories, which depict father-son relationships. The first Jayanthana Swagatha (`Jayantha's Soliloquy') by P. Lankesh begins as a tirade by an angry young man of today against his seventy-year-old father.

Everything about the father appears to irritate him — his physical fitness, his romantic nature, happy home life and his concern for the son who seems to be going astray.

His charges against his parents, though petty, are expressed with as much anger and angst as Hamlet's against Claudius and Gertrude. (There is a deliberate attempt to draw parallel between the two.) But this resentment is only a passing phase, a part of growing up. One fine day, the son gets over it and finds himself appreciating his father and following his footsteps.

The second story, Shraddha by Sheenu, takes us back to an earlier time when the father is seen as a figure of tyrannical authority and the mother has to act as an intermediary between father and son. Hiding his tenderness, the father mocks and nags the son through indirect remarks.

It is only when the son is leaving home to take up a job that the father reveals his true feelings. The image of the lonely old man waving him goodbye is so different from the father he has known that the son finds it hard to accept it.

The stories effectively depict the changing relationship between father and son through generations.

Though the two stories come from very different backgrounds, the transition is smooth. By getting the actor who plays Jayanth's father in the first story take on the son's role in the second, we are made to feel that the two stories are part of a sequence. Both writers share a sense of humour, which livens up the narration. While Lankesh draws from Western literature, Sheenu's is `desi' humour. The pun on `Mundanmishra' (which defies translation) is particularly delectable.

The low cost, small cast production is notable for its simplicity and sincerity and captures the essential tone of the narratives without over-dramatizing them.

There are hardly any sets or props. The idea of using a rolled up mat to represent the pillar in the old fashioned house is fine, provided the actors handle it well and manage to keep it upright. (Their inability to do so caused some embarrassment in this particular show.)

Live music (Murali Srigeri on the flute and Varun on keyboard) contributed much to the evocation of the poignant mood and compensated for any lapse on the part of the actors.

It is a pity that such sincere, innovative productions by Kannada theatre groups should fail to draw a better response at Rangashankara.

LAXMI CHANDRASHEKAR

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