It’s a gala time for theatre lovers as one of Bangalore’s most important theatre spaces Ranga Shankara is hosting its 10th theatre festival, titled ‘Samprati - A New Generation Directs Girish Karnad’, also celebrating 50 years of Karnad as a playwright.
Premiering on October 23, ‘Tipu Sultan - A Diptych based on Karnad’s The Dreams of Tipu Sultan and Furies by Indianostrum’, a Pondicherry-based production house staging the play, led to a heated discussion, revolving around how loyal the play was to Karnad’s script. We chat with director Koumarane Vallavane.
“Say you don’t like the play. That I can accept. But don’t tell me what I can do and what I cannot,” Koumarane Vallavane tells his audience, in response to some comments that the play, deviating greatly from the original, was disappointing.
Karnad on stage
Speaking for the entire cast, Vallavane shares that Karnad is a political playwright. “While his plays don’t discuss ideologies, they are full of political subtleties about the present,” interjects Upasana Sarraju, one of the actors.
“He too is someone who spoke his mind, whether about Naipaul or Tagore. Karnad’s declarations are honest and refreshing,” adds Vallavane, in whose play the iconic playwright, who is also a character, is hanged by a decision taken by a civilian court.
Penning the play
The troupe maintains that the play has emerged from a collaborative effort of all the actors and the director. “We had no definite script to start off with. We each came up with the characters that we play and even most of the lines for that character. And with Vallavane, the story was formed,” says Surraju.
“I don’t believe that the director must have all the ideas. His job is to ensure that the actors feel at their best so that they can bring in their own ideas into the play,” Vallavane adds. His job is more like a facilitator - to listen to the ideas coming from outside, to encourage the actors and finally decide what goes into the script and what doesn’t.
Voice of majority
Apart from Karnad, his life and works, Indianostrum was also influenced by Afzal Guru’s hanging, hence using the play to make a strong statement against capital punishment. Speaking for the rest of the cast as well, Vallavane says, “We thought a lot about him and the verdict, when the judge said something to the effect of, ‘to satisfy the sentiments of the public...’ Bangalore, the director shares, is probably an ideal location to premiere such a play. “I cannot think what kind of a response I would get in Chennai.”