On the move

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Born into a Dalit family, noted theatre director C. Basalingaiah was brought up by his mother under difficult circumstances. He spent most of his childhood and youth in the slums of Srirampuram in Bangalore.

Those were the days of Emergency. “True, the country had lost freedom, but we, particularly the youth of my caste and class were exposed to new thoughts. Thanks largely to people like D.R. Nagaraj, Ki.Ram. Nagaraj and C.G. Krishnaswamy (C.G.K.) we were looking at the world in a new light. I heard the name of Marx and Lohia too and we debated extensively about what mattered to our society: caste or class.” Post-emergency theatre took on a new dimension. Dalit Sangharsha Samithi came into existence and was instrumental in providing an extra dimension of dignity and self-respect to the generation.

The two persons he remembers with gratitude and admiration are Prasanna and C.G.K, who were by then noted theatre persons. “Belchi”, “Mother” and “Galileo” were a great influence on him. And so were the many street plays that were staged coinciding with Indira Gandhi contesting the elections from Chikmagalur. Watching this young man with such energy and talent, Prasanna and C.G.K. “literally thrust Rs. 2000 in my pocket and packed me off to National school of Drama. My mother believed that I was going for my M.A. or M.Sc. If she had known it was for theatre she would have broken my legs. NSD made a lasting impact… especially people like Badal Sircar.” For Basalingaiah there are no greater writers than Vyasa, Valmiki and Kalidasa. “They have women at the centre of their works – Sita, Kunti, Draupadi and Shakuntala and it has always drawn me to it. It is no surprise that I have been impressed by Mahadeva's ‘Kusumabale'.” He remembers with gratitude Ki.Ram. Nagaraj's guidance and states in the same breath that Buddhist Jataka Tales are very significant for him. “It is basically, I should say, my exposure to Allama and Basava, that helped my breaking away from the three dimensional theatre to open space,” he explains. He then moved to Gandhiji's 1983 South African train incident, which C.B. said “asserted human dignity. Gandhiji's marathon walks are a metaphor for movement, keeping things moving, dynamic.” It is because of Buddha and Ambedkar that his personal, social and cultural selves remain integrated, says Basalingaiah.

When Basalingaiah worked on P. Lankesh's play “Sankranti”, he rendered it contemporary by replacing Basavanna and Bijjala with Gandhiji and Nehru. He continues to believe that “State power and organised religion are a bane of the society.”

Speaking of his latest work “Malegalalli Madumagalu”, a novel of epic proportions, he recalls the mammoth task and laments that one third of the book could not be dramatized. He worked for more than twelve hours each day for over four months and with 50 young artistes from different parts of the states apart from Rangayana artistes. What are his future plans? “I wish to take plays to homes, where around 150 people can be accommodated and make intimate theatre a reality. I like to make theatre an integral part of one's personal life. After all, we need to blend both ‘alaya' and ‘bayalu', the concrete and the abstract.

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Printable version | Aug 2, 2021 7:14:35 PM |

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