Company drama in contemporary times

Conjuring up good old days A scene from Kurukshetra  

“Making arrows from bamboo sticks, smearing mud all over the body and wearing fowl feathers, me and my shepherd friends used to recreate the breath-taking drama scenes that we had watched the previous night.

I grew up watching drama company plays and everything about them had created a fascination in me,” recollects Dr. M. Ganesh, who taught theatre at Ninasam, and presently Director, Rangayana Shimoga. All night plays based on Ramayana, Mahabharata and other puranas were common in most villages during summer when agricultural activities would take a halt. Setting up of the stage itself, he says, brought a magical world into the rural space and the whole practice was to amuse villagers who were exhausted from a yearlong labour.

Kurukshetra, a play directed by Ganesh is being staged all over the State: it takes its inspiration from company plays. The whole village would come alive with total participation. With this culture slowly fading away, “my childhood memories impelled me to reinvigorate, staging it in not only villages, but also in urban and semi-urban areas,” says Ganesh, who has trained amateurs of Sathyashodhana Ranga Samudaya every night for a whole month.

This plot of Kurukshetra has over the years taken various forms with each troupe improvising it by altering the dialogues, scenes and songs. One of the versions of the play was called Sri Krishna Sandhaana, made famous by Gubbi Company. “We kept all those versions in mind while drafting the play and selected the aspects that would add value to our version.”

The group based the play majorly on B. Puttaswamayya’s Kurukshetra and took the essence of Smashana Kurukshetra by Kuvempu where Krishna unravels the truth of existence to Duryodhana during his death. “We are also grateful to theatre masters P. Vajrappa and Kalloru Srinivasa as we adapted a lot from their models as well,” he adds.

This Kurukshetra, he explains, is a family drama which involves fights between cousins, the Pandavas and the Kauravas, helplessness of Karna, the first son of Kunti, grudge of Duryodhana against his rivals and the agony of Gandhari who is placed in a difficult situation where she cannot stop her son from resorting to war. To replicate the old style of presentation, “the actors themselves sing and the whole play is a musical treat.”

The troupe has incurred an expenditure of four lakhs for this production. “The sharing of profits equally among all the actors and technicians without any regard to the role or seniority is what makes the troupe special,” he mentions.

The intention of this new play is “to recreate the purpose and glory of folk style. In providing a taste of rural drama, we hope the style and technique of this form would survive,” says Ganesh.

The troupe has rendered 20 shows at various places including Thirthahalli, Mandya, Puttur, Mysore, Kunigal and Sira.

It will be staged in Bangalore at Rangashankara on May 5, 7.30 p.m. Tickets are priced at Rs. 150 and can be bought at the venue or booked online on

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 8:02:09 PM |

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