Back to Nataka Mandali days for Bangalore theatre loversOctober 28th, 2008 - 1:49 pm ICT by IANS
Bangalore, Oct 28 (IANS) For 10 days starting Friday, Bangaloreans will relive the glorious days of Nataka Mandali or company theatre, one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the early part of the 20th century.Company theatre consisted of professional artistes who travelled to various places staging mythological, historical and social plays. Their shows would go on through the night, usually starting around 10 p.m. and concluding at day break. The tradition is almost extinct now, replaced by cinema and television.
But as a tribute to the Nataka Mandali tradition, Ranga Shankara, a prominent theatre group in Karnataka which has set up an eponymous modern theatre facility in Bangalore, is organising a 10-day festival to provide an opportunity for people to revisit company theatre.
The festival features six acclaimed plays, including two specially commissioned plays in Kannada, that echo the grandeur of a bygone era.
It is a joint endeavour of Ranga Shankara and cellular company Vodafone.
“The festival will pay tribute to the tradition of Nataka Mandali or company theatre, which dominated the Indian stage in the early part of the 20th century. But, unfortunately with the passage of time, the theatre form is almost extinct now. The festival will attempt to revive the grandeur and magic called Nataka Mandali that entertained the masses,” said Arundhati Nag, creative director of Ranga Shankara.
The festival will open with the Amal Allana-directed “Nati Binodini” in Hindi, presented by Theatre and Television Associates, New Delhi.
The other plays are Satish Alekar’s Marathi play “Begum Barve”, Ravindra Khare’s Marathi play “Katiaar Kaalijaat Ghusil” and R. Nageswara Rao’s Telugu play “Maya Bazaar”, based on an episode in the Hindu epic Mahabharata.
The two specially commissioned plays in Kannada are “Jagadjyothi Basaveshwara” on the life and teachings of 12th century social reformer Basavanna, and “Sadarame”, a popular play depicting how a middle class girl married to a prince tackles her problems through common sense.
“All the four plays, not in the commissioned section, have achieved critical acclaim wherever they have been staged in the country. The two commissioned plays aim to take theatre-goers to an era when theatre was hosted in a grand manner and had an altogether different feel,” said Girish Karnad, Jnanpith awardee, playwright and active member of Ranga Shankara.
Nataka Mandali, which celebrated theatricality and was best known for its spectacular quality, emerged as the country’s first modern commercial theatre. It created what was perhaps the largest ticket buying audience in Indian stage history.
The theatrical style was greatly influenced by Parsi theatre, Marathi Sangeet Natak and several local performance traditions.
In north Karnataka, around a dozen theatre troupes are still carrying forward the authentic model espoused by the Nataka Mandali tradition. The cradle of Nataka Mandali - West Bengal and Maharashtra - seems to be losing out.
However, in Assam the tradition has been recently revived to enormous economic success and is popular across its villages.
The theatrical style had to deal with a lot of harsh criticism and was mocked for its excesses and sloppiness during its time.
But theatre experts feel in Nataka Mandali lies the very foundation of present-day theatre.
“Nataka Mandali played a seminal role in the intellectual life of the people during its time and the present forms of theatre practised in India owe a lot to the theatrical style,” said Karnad.
Apart from plays, the festival will also screen documentaries and special solo performances by thespians R. Nagarathnamma, Master Hirannaiah and Sarita Joshi from the golden era. The journey of Kannada Sangeeta Nataka over the last 70 years will be presented in the fiesta through songs. The festival will also feature the second edition of a theatre and art appreciation course for aspiring theatrepersons.
Along with the screening of documentaries depicting various facts about Nataka Mandali, an exhibition of rare photographs will take viewers down memory lane when Nataka Mandali was at its peak.