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The man behind Rangayana and Kannada University

Muralidhara Khajane
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Prakash's contribution to culture, especially theatre, is significant

VERSATILE: The former Deputy Chief Minister M.P. Prakash was instrumental in founding theatre repertory Rangayana. — Photo: KPN
VERSATILE: The former Deputy Chief Minister M.P. Prakash was instrumental in founding theatre repertory Rangayana. — Photo: KPN

Besides being a prominent face of State politics since the 1980s, former Deputy Chief Minister M.P. Prakash, who died in Bangalore on Wednesday, was a multifaceted personality. His contribution to the field of culture, especially theatre, is significant. Prakash played a pivotal role in founding and grooming Kannada University, Hampi, and the State-run theatre repertory, Nataka Karnataka Rangayana. He was part of pro-people's movements in the 1970s.

According to Hulagappa Kattimani, a theatre artiste who considers Prakash as his guru, Prakash was from the backward Narayanadevarakere village, which was submerged during the construction of the Tungabhadra Dam. Then his family settled in Huvina Hadagali.

Prakash was instrumental in founding Rangayana, when Ramakrishna Hegde was the Chief Minister. To make the best use of theatre experience of the doyen of Indian theatre, B.V. Karanth, Prakash persuaded the late Hegde to ensure that the genius of Karanth did not go waste. The result was Rangayana in Mysore, with Karanth as its first director.

Recalling the efforts made by Prakash in founding and grooming Rangayana, director of the repertory Lingadevaru Halemane said that had Prakash not persuaded Hegde, Rangayana would have remained a dream of Karanth.

“Prakash was a rare leader and it is difficult to find that kind of a ‘mature politician' today,” he said.

Theatre was a passion with Prakash. He founded the Rangabharati theatre troupe in the early 1960s, recalls Kotrappa, who is now coordinating the activities of Rangabharati. He likens Rangabharati of Huvina Hadagali in Bellary district to Ninasam of Heggodu.

“While Ninasam is engaged in grooming professional theatre talent, Rangabharati promoted amateur artists,” he said.

Inspired by the success of Marathi theatre in the then Bombay, Prakash, who came to Hadagali after completing his law education, introduced “new wave” plays to the rural people by directing popular amateur plays of the time, including “Sangya Balya”.

He had great dreams about making Hadagali a culture centre. Noted personalities from the field of art, literature, theatre, music used to assemble at Hadagali. His dream project of constructing a state-of-the-art theatre in Hadagali remained unfulfilled during his lifetime, because of lack of funds, Mr. Kotrappa said.

Being a professional actor, Prakash also acted in films such as “Avasthe” directed by Krishna Masadi based on U.R. Ananthamurthy's novel.

He also acted in “Matad Matad Mallige”, and “Beli Mattu Hola”, apart from various plays.

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