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Shines with simplicity



GOOD START Shraddha mattu Hanate is a debut performance by Ninasam alumni

Janamanadaata, the latest theatre group formed by a few like-minded alumni of Ninasam Theatre Institute, made their debut in Bangalore recently with the staging of Shraddha mattu Hanate at Sinchana, an intimate theatre space in J.P. Nagar. Conceived, designed and directed by the entire group, the play was a dramatised narration of two short stories by well-known humour writer, Srinivasa Vaidya.

Shraddha is a delightful account of the narrator's ambiguous relationship with his authoritarian father and the change it undergoes as he grows up. During the narrator's childhood and adolescence, the father is seen as an ironhanded dictator, incapable of any feelings other than anger and sarcasm. An honest, upright man of the old school, he adds to his son's woes by advising his teacher not to spare the rod. Since he refuses to address the boy directly (The boy is too frightened to face him anyway!), all communication between father and son has to be mediated by the mother. The son realises that there is a different side to his father only when he is leaving home to pursue his studies in Bombay. But he finds it hard to reconcile this image of his father with the earlier one.

What makes the narration fascinating is the way the writer employs irony and mixes nostalgia with hindsight. Now an adult and a father himself, the narrator is able to understand his dead father better and maintain an ironic distance between his present and recollected selves. The former fear of his father now being replaced by a more tender emotion, he grows tearful as he performs the funeral ceremony or shraddha of his father.

The second story Hanategalu (Earthen lamps) was again a nostalgic exploration of the childhood psyche, the aspirations, thrills and fears of a bunch of children growing up in a small town. Among the images that have imprinted themselves on the young minds are that of the mysterious lamp lighter, Sakharam and his son who wanted to be a police officer so that he can beat up people, the painted figure (in the advertisement for a pain balm) which offers a greater sense of security than the sacred thread.

With their great clarity of narration and excellent use of body language, the five talented, well trained actors of Janamanadaata were able to extract every bit of the humour and pathos in the two stories (They were actually more like informal, autobiographical essays than stories!), using minimal props. In the absence of a stage, a thin rope separated the acting area from the audience. A short screen which served as the backdrop, and a mat were all the sets they needed. The way the mat could be transformed into different kinds of furniture was almost magical. It served as a stool when rolled up and a pillar when rolled down from above. It would serve as a red carpet or a classroom bench when rolled out on the floor and become a piece of luggage when rolled up and carried under the arm. Even the costume elements were kept to the minimum. In fact, the show derived part of its power from its stark simplicity.

LAXMI CHANDRASHEKAR

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