Undeterred by the summer showers people are thronging Kalagrama (on the Jnanabharathi campus) to watch Malegalalli Madumagalu , which has created history of sorts in Kannada theatre.

The production, with 158 characters, 58 scenes and 67 actors, is claimed to be the longest after Peter Brooks’ Mahabharata.

The play commences at 8.30 p.m. and ends by 5.45 a.m. It is staged on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The play, directed by C. Basavalingaiah , based on a 750-page magnum opus of Kannada writer Kuvempu, depicts the conflict between tradition and modernity in the 19{+t}{+h}century.

Writer K.Y. Narayanaswamy has adopted this literary work for the play and art director Shashidhara Adapa has created a virtual ‘Malnad’ to suit the needs of the play on 12 acres at Kalagrama.

Elated by the response to 18 shows in the past month, Mr. Basavalingaiah said that the response was beyond expectations. “Even theatre enthusiasts from Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi, who learnt about the play through Facebook and blogs, came to watch the play,” he added.

Understanding that the play would not stop even if it rains, people are coming prepared with umbrellas and raincoats. The elderly come completely prepared: “They are bringing their own reclining chairs and flasks with hot coffee,” he smiles.

As those working in the software sector requested a change in the schedule, the play is being staged on Friday instead of Sunday. “They are sharing their opinion about the production on Facebook and blogs. Neither the Indian Premier League cricket matches nor elections to the Assembly dampened the spirits of theatre buffs,” he said.

While over 600 people watched each one of the shows of the Rangayana production in Mysore, over 1,000 people can be accommodated at Kalagrama. Considering the distance between the four stages, there are three intervals of 15 minutes each for the audience to refresh and occupy their seats.

The play, according to those who have watched it, gives a feel of real Malnad in this concrete city. Kereyangala provides the feel of being on the banks of the Tunga and Bidirumele, a bamboo grove, provides the feel of the thick forests. The other two sets are equally attractive because of the native touch.

“The play is a landmark in the history of Kannada theatre, as it broke the traditional concepts of theatre by providing a 180 degree experience to the e-audience,” Mr. Basavalingaiah explained. While the threat of crocodiles at Kukkarahalli Lake haunted the play in Mysore, it is snakes that are the troublemakers here. “A snake bit Sanjay, a crew member. He has, however, recovered now,” he said.

“Initially, we were apprehensive about the outcome of the play in the absence of experienced Rangayana artistes. But the new artistes have lived up to the expectations,” he said. The play will end on June 3, he said.

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