Rabindranath's popular novel ‘Gora' in Kannada brought to life a historical period.
Gora is perhaps the most complex and best known novel of Rabindranath Tagore. The canvas is large and its applicability is beyond a time frame, hence its appeal across India. The Kannada version staged at Ravindra Bharati as a part of Sangeet Natak Akademi's ‘Natyanjali' series celebrating 150 years of Tagore, was commendable though the reach was restricted due to its regional lingo. There was no English commentary to help a non-Kannada audience.
The story is a juxtaposition of the British-influenced, modern, young emerging Bengal as against the ritual-ridden, custom-oriented Bengal. The Brahmo Samaj, an offshoot of the former, and its followers were always seen to be locking horns with the conservatives who were caste-biased, religiously rigid and abhorred the new life-style. Goura Mohan Babu (Gora) belongs to an orthodox Brahmin family, an adopted son, who takes to the Vedic rituals in full faith and turns into a staunch adherent to the tenets of Hinduism. Obviously, the more emancipated lot among his fellowmen find him weird. He has his plus points too so typical of the learned priestly class - his idealism, high sense of justice, compassion towards the downtrodden, patriotism, fearlessness and so on. He openly detests the Brahmos considering them as responsible for eroding the age-old values in an attempt to take on English-imbibed progress.
The drama unfolds Gora's character in various situations and also reveals the social order of the day, the British mode of justice, thinking and acting. The male characters like Krishnadayalu (Mime Ramesh), the enlightened Brahmo Paresh Babu (Vinayak Bhat Hasanagi) looked impressive and played their roles convincingly. But the female characters had a worn out look despite strong dialogues, true to Bengal of Tagore's times and did not come across with conviction. Neither Sucharita (Nandini K.R.) a Brahmo, and emancipated woman in Gora's life was able to connect to the audience nor the fiercely independent Lalitha (Geetha M.S.) who might have put her best talent into acting, could impress.
It was Prashanth Hiremath who played Gora, that carried the entire story on his able shoulders. An actor with great looks and personality , he looked every inch the Gora Tagore had in mind while penning this story. Environment and upbringing have an innate influence on man's behaviour and this is brought out by the great poet-novelist in the character of Gora who is named so because of his fair complexion. He was born of English blood, abandoned and later adopted by a Brahmin couple and was brought up in their own rigid religious way. Despite a good director like Prakash Belvadi with a great insight, the play was an insipid fare but for Prashanth Hiremath. An intercepting commentary in English would have been most welcome for the Hyderabadi audience, not acquainted with Kannada.