An engaging display on the life, works and theatre of B.V. Karanth and Habib Tanvir at Bharat Rang Mahotsav.

Theatre director B.V. Karanth thought he would become a waiter in an Udupi restaurant. Young Karanth, who desired to learn music, devised a plan — to fall in front of the Maharaja of Mysore when he is on a morning walk and beg for an opportunity to learn music. The next day, Gubbi Company came his way and Karanth turned out to be theatre's gift.

The man who could never resist the “magic of theatre,” Karanth is admitted into Gubbi Company after being assessed on the mandatory requirement of ‘3 Ps' — pipe (voice), pose (posture) and pigar (figure).

Nuggets — these and more — make an exhibition on the legendary B.V. Karanth and Habib Tanvir at the National School of Drama lawns, an engaging affair. The displays, part of this year's Bharat Rang Mahotsav, unlike a sedate page blown-up, ensconced in glass and laid out without imagination, manage to invite attention.

Two large canopies sit on the lawns and within each canopy rest six large cuboid shapes in several angles. On each face runs information about the theatre personalities, rare personal photographs, images of their productions and their theatre philosophy.

“I wanted it to be more playful, more theatrical. The illumination makes it look like an installation. It is a tribute and should be celebratory. The canopies give the feel of a folk performance,” says Amal Allana, Chairperson, NSD and the curator of the show designed by Neeraj Sahay.

“I have been very keen that NSD do some archiving work,” Allana bares the thought behind the display. With the exhibition, vital notes to the theatre grammar of these two stalwarts walk into the institution's archival library.

The material has been combed in from old magazines, families of the two and their work spaces. The photographs on show envelope a range — of Karanth dressed as a young girl during his early days at Gubbi theatre, of Tanvir and M.S. Sathyu during the first production of “Agra Bazaar” in 1954 designed by Sathyu, pages of Tanvir's scripts in Urdu, sketches of his set design for “Shajapur ki Shantibai” and Karanth in a pensive mood.

More importantly, the evolution of the theatre philosophy of the two is arrested here. Both experimented with forms and both realised the power of indigenous folk elements.

“Whenever we look for our own identity or legacy, our quest automatically ends at the same emotional destination — there — at folk theatre,” says Karanth.

“Unless we can go back to our tradition and bring a world consciousness to bear upon knowledge of our own tradition, we cannot evolve the new kind of vehicle of expression which is necessary for a technical age where new demands are made,” states Tanvir.

“We have selected those quotations where their very different approach to going back to tradition is seen,” says Allana. “Habib Tanvir experimented by bringing together urban and