Wandering production

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THEATRE The magum opus Malegalalli Madumagalu will have 25 performances in Bangalore

AN EPIC PRODUCTIONScene from the play
AN EPIC PRODUCTIONScene from the play

It is rather given to bringing up a reference to Peter Brook’s The Mahabharata here, for that was nine-hours long as well. But then, it was the Mahabharata, with its 90,000 couplets and a mindboggling array of sub plots and transgressions from the main story; it was genius to have managed to tell most of it in so short a play. In comparison, Kuvempu’s magnum opus Malegalalli Madumagalu, literally translated to mean the bride in the hills, is just 700-odd pages long, so the director gets a wider canvas with an equal amount of time to interpret the novel. The thing is, strictly speaking, there isn’t a straight line story that is narrated in this book from 1967; the novel is a series of events in the lives of a series of people from many communities and classes that are entwined in one complicated way or the other. That is perhaps why it took the “madness of C. Basavalingaiah” to bring Malegalalli Madumagalu to stage in what will remain a landmark production.

The first time it was staged in Mysore’s Rangayana in 2010, the all-night play attracted audiences from across the State and the country. Back on popular demand, it will be staged again at Kalagrama, within the Bangalore University campus, starting April 18, with 25 scheduled performances till the end of May.

The playwright, writer K.Y. Narayanaswamy, still feels like it all is a dream and talks of how he wrote a burst of about 40 songs over two days. He attributes the exercise of adapting such a complicated novel to the stage to the madness of the director C. Basavalingaiah, who, with the 70 actors and many more dozen technicians and other artists, has set up camp for nearly three months at Kalagrama rehearsing the play.

This time around, the majority of the cast is new, with just 24 from the previous production. The 70 actors will play nearly 150 characters in 50 scenes across four stages. Malegalalli Madumagalu goes beyond the strict confines of traditional proscenium and follows the characters across the expanse of elaborate sets, which has been erected at Kalagrama, incorporating the already standing trees, the bamboo shrubs, a large pond and natural slopes and bumps in the land.

The audience, in 15-minute breaks between the play, will move with the cast from ‘bayalu-ranga’ to the ‘kereyangala-ranga’ and the ‘bidirumela-ranga’ before watching the end and catching the sun rise at ‘honge-ranga’.

The preview that the cast performs already promises a stellar production. The scene opens with a set of Jogis, traditional wandering minstrels, setting the context for the play and drawing attention to long-gone times in the Male-nadu region of central Karnataka. There is Naayi-Gutthi and his loyal dog Gutthi-Naayi, so inseparable that they will only be referred to hyphenated with the other’s name. There is the couple very much in love, Aitha and Peenchalu. There is Mukundayya, Jattamma and the many landlords and slaves of Hulikallu, Simbhavi, Bettahalli, Megravalli, Lakkunda. While there are three main couples that the audience will root for and follow the lives and loves of, the array of other characters is what allows the play many layers to portray the social, cultural and political changes that the region was swept by in the 19{+t}{+h}century.

Each of the sets will offer the audience a 180-degree view of the performances and have a seating capacity of 1,000. Malegalalli Madumagalu starts April 18 and will be staged every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday till May 30. Tickets are priced at Rs. 100 and will be available at Ravindra Kalakshetra, J.C. Road, Kalagrama, Bangalore University and Information and Broadcasting Department, Infantry Road and online Call 98400 48003, 98865 40966 for details.




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