An art entrepreneur

Manjula, founder of Arunodaya Kala Tanda, spoke about her journey as a theatre artiste, who challenged casteism and patriarchy

Theatre personality Manjula’s performance left the audience spellbound as she sang about the power of women’s unity at the Network of Women in Media, India’s 15th National meeting at Indian Social Institute, Benson Town.

Manjula was one of the panellists at the discussion on Culture and the Arts in Times of Trouble. She spoke in Kannada, translated into English by Vasanthi Hariprakash, traced her journey in performance arts and the founding of her group, Arunodaya Kala Tanda.

“I was born into a poor family and I was married into a poor family too. I am now a mother of two.When I got into beedi nataka (street theatre), I constructed plays around issues of casteism and alcoholism.” The year 1998 was a defining one for her. “I launched into performing many of different kinds of plays. I did wonder about my talent for theatre. But I kept getting invitations to perform these plays.”

She continued to pursue theatre despite many struggles including the death of some of her loved ones.

In 2004, Manjula made a re-entry into street performances. “My father influenced me. He would take me from village to village on his cycle to watch street plays.”

Manjula has performed in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra, which gave her a lot of confidence as a performer. “I was then asked why are you performing under so many banners, why not start something of your own? So I started Arunodaya. From a janapada, pouranika, beedi nataka performer I became an art entrepreneur.”

She spoke about the opposition she received from male artistes. “They would ask why is a woman doing this?’ But it only strengthened my resolve. In my own place in Mandya, casteism is prevalent. So I got 18 to 20 women together under a banner, they performed in Mandya. Along the way, I have been helped by many people, including women and the dalit community.”

She is happy that more women are performing. Manjula said when they perform in auditoriums, they are accorded respect. “However, it is not the same case when women perform on the streets. They sometimes face difficult challenges.” However, Manjula contends that the government has realised how powerful street theatre is.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 12:20:57 AM |

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