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An actor and her craft

B. Jayashree is the complete theatre person given her felicity with acting, music and dance. She was more than convincing at her recent lecdem



NATURAL ACTOR Without the build-up of a play, Jayashree could dissolve into various emotions Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Music, dance and drama converged expertly on the same platform at the Oxford Book Store as artiste B. Jayashree from Spandana explored myriad facets of theatre in a lecture-demonstration of sorts. Along with Aravinda K. also from Spandana, the Kannada amateur theatre group established in 1976, Jayashree took a select audience through the rigours and nuances of her art. If she was riveting in the one-person shows of Uriya Uyyale, it is only because Jayashree is a complete performer, able even to transform the flat, brightly-lit floor space of the Bookstore into a forceful fragment of theatre magic.

Acclaimed as a playback singer and renowned as an actor, Jayashree explained the importance of familiarity and ease with music and dance in order to become a professional theatre artiste. More than her explanations, it was her demonstrations of the range of her voice and the tautness of her emotions, which really drove the point home. Beginning by stressing the inextricable links between music and theatre (you need to know how to sing in order to be convincing in certain traditions of theatre), she carried on to hail natya (dance) as the fifth Veda, demonstrating how speech can be conveyed by opening your mouth and letting sound emerge from within, thus enunciating each individual vowel without their getting trapped within a larger sound. Accompanied by a young dancer to assist both her music and movement demonstrations, as well as husband and Art Director of Spandana, Anandraju, to translate her examples, Jayashree described shantha as the ninth rasa, showing it as a link, an intermediary between two rasas.

To show the import of music when milked to its limits, Jayashree picked the scene from the Mahabharata when Abhimanyu's mother, sending him off to battle, bids him goodbye. Each four lines borrow from a different raga thus drama is intensified through the nuances of raga and music rather than merely through dialogue or rasa.

Gubbi company

Appropriately, she also touched on techniques and methods adopted by her erstwhile grandfather Gubbi Veeranna's Gubbi Company, making humour and sarcasm integral to the story. Jayashree sang bits of a Ganapati song "Gajavadana He Rambha" from an earlier production where the words were broken into individual letters (just as Ganapati is 'incomplete'), serving to startle audiences with the force of their brief impact but also acting as metaphor for Ganapati in his chipped form. Again from the Gubbi Company, Jayashree demonstrated how they contributed to the Freedom Struggle through their plays; villains have always come from outside (think Ravana from Lanka) and similarly the British being outsiders were compared with mythological demons such as Ravana in plays that delightfully integrated bandstand tunes with Kannada dialogues.

Wrapping up with bits from Spandana productions, demonstrating how powerful actors can summon the intense emotions of hate, anger and betrayal seemingly with no effort, Aravinda K. enacted a snippet from Karimayi while Jayashree in just a few moments easily touched a pinnacle from Uriya Uyyale, Draupadi's early reaction to the death of her five children. These emotions might result naturally in a full-length play which has reached its crescendo through the build-up scenes but Aravinda and Jayashree were able to dissolve into heartbreaking tears and appear wracked by the force of their characters' emotions in just a few moments: no lights, no fancy acoustics, no proscenium, no build-up — just an actor and her craft.

HEMANGINI GUPTA

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