D.S. Chougle, a sensitive and prolific writer, releases his collection of plays
Important among contemporary playwrights in Kannada is D.S. Chougle. This writer from North Karnataka has also forayed into short story writing, translation apart from being an artiste. He is keenly engaged with the world of Marathi literature as well.
Excerpts from an interview.
Three of your seven plays are connected to Gandhi. The 21st century has been preoccupied with Gandhi in several ways. What is your personal relationship with Gandhi?
Of the three Gandhi plays, Kasturba, is an original work. When my first play on Gandhi came in 1998, and Rangayana staged it, it gave Kannada theatre a new momentum.
In the last century and in the present times, Gandhiji has been a major force in this world through his ideas, experiments and most importantly, his very personality. In these three plays, you get to see the many dimensions of Gandhiji and his thinking. All the three plays, in a very broad sense, speak about simple life, ethics, giving up temptation. But they also take us towards deeper issues like his relationship with his son Harilal, his discussions with Ambedkar, and Kasturba who stood by all his trials and tribulations. The greed for money that’s come in with globalisation, and rampant industrialisation has ruined the farming sector and has led to the collapse of cottage industries. In the wake of all this, what Gandhiji says is very important.
Marathi theatre is more contemporary in its thinking. In the 90s, many plays on Gandhi came in Marathi. I chose what I felt were the best among them. But what needs to be recognised is that the Kannada productions were far more superior and widely discussed.
Personally, I have been greatly influenced by all the three plays. During my translating-writing process, I felt Gandhi had entered my being. I gained strength to be morally courageous, ethical, and tolerant from him. Gandhi taught me to deal every situation with a great deal of courage. This is my soul relationship with him.
Most of North Karnataka writers have a deep connection with the literary world of Maharashtra. This is true even after 55 years of Unification. Can you explain this relationship?
It cannot be said that all North Karnataka writers have been influenced by Marathi literature and culture. For instance, Chandrashekar Kambar doesn’t know Marathi at all. Bendre knew Marathi, Karnad too. There has been a huge Marathi influence in North Karnataka regions because of its proximity to South Maharashtra. For a long time, there were no Kannada schools in Dharwad itself. But that didn’t mean the absence of a Kannada environment. Kolhapur, Sangli and Sholapur had a Kannada atmosphere. People like Aa. Ne. Upadhye knew Marathi, Prakrit, Ardha Magadhi along with Kannada. Even writers like K.G. Kundanagara, Mirji Annaraya, Bendre, V.K. Gokak had studied both Marathi and Kannada literatures deeply. Ram. Sha Lokapur is part of this tradition too.
Marathi theatre is more active than Kannada. It is socially committed. Since my childhood, I have been greatly attracted to Sri Krishna Parijata, Sangya Balya, and the company plays, but I’ve been equally attracted to folk theatre forms of Maharashtra. I along with my guru, Chandrakant Pokale, travel to Kolhapur and Sangli to watch plays. Honed amidst such sensibilities, I was waiting for an opportunity. It happened with the play Gandhi vs. Gandhi.
In terms of gaining two cultural sensibilities, it has been an advantage for writers of this region. But it’s also true that apart from legendary writers, many others have been glossed out by the overall scheme of the Kannada literary world. Isn’t it?
Every field has its own advantages and disadvantages. G.A. Kulkarni and Kamala Desai are writers from our parts who have made big contributions to Marathi literature. Bendre and Karnad are favourites of the Marathi world. Well, it is true that many of our very good writers have got no recognition.
What are the challenges of writing a play in these times?
It is always a great challenge to write about contemporary issues. One contemporary subject ropes in universal truths and visions. G.B. Joshi was a master at achieving this. Shri Ranga and Kailasam gave it a technique and style. Recently, I wrote a play, “Aa Circle”, based on contemporary political issues like land mafia, farmer’s suicides, and others. It was widely appreciated. To arrive at a style and narrative is very tough. When my mother spoke she could easily mix metaphor, idiom, and proverb… it has had a big impact on my narrative style.
D.S. Chougle’s “Elu Natakagalu” will be released on May 26 at 6 p.m. Nayana Sabhangana, Bangalore.