JC ROAD:Fifty years after U R Ananthamurthy’s novel hit the stands, Rangayana Mysore has recreated Samskara, and will stage its 10th show in the city tomorrow.
Though a stage adaptation — by O L Nagabhushana Swamy and Mayachandra Krishnaprasad — it is largely faithful to the original text, says H Janardhana, better known in theatre circles as Janni, who is directing the play.
The story takes off with the death of Naranappa, a rebel of sorts in an orthodox agrahara, the Brahmin quarters, of Duravasapura in the Western Ghats.
The question of whether the body of a person who had given up brahminism should be cremated by the inhabitants of the agrahara, some of whom are related to him, arises.
For once, Praneshacharya, who has won scores of arguments against scholars from far and wide, is stumped; he is unable find a solution in the scriptures.
Meanwhile, as the corpse starts to decompose, fear spreads and no one in the agrahara is allowed to eat or take a bath.
In the stage version, the narrator has been eliminated and the story is told through enactment and dialogues. Hence, though Naranappa dies in the beginning of the story, the character appears on stage throughout the play.
After the interval, a different actor plays Praneshacharya, symbolic of his transformation after he and Chandri (Naranappa’s low-caste mistress) make love.
U R Ananthamurthy's Samskara returns as a play
“This doesn’t merely signify a physical change in the character. After this, he understands what hunger means as he walks away from the village. He befriends Putta and begins to look upon him as a son,” says Janni. “He watches a cock-fight and runs away, feeling he can’t survive in the harsh world outside the agrahara, and goes and dines at a smartha temple.”
Years on, the story is still relevant, Janni feels. “Agraharas still exist in the Malnad region, but we’re also referring to the internal agrahara, the rigidity regarding all the practices, rituals and superstitions here,” he says. “So while we might have taken all these liberties, the spirit of the story remains.”
The same spirit that inspired Ananthamurthy drove the 12th century musical saints of Karnataka, he says. “So, between scenes, vachanas that address the same rigid values and dilemmas of dharma are sung,” says the director of the state repertory. “When it came out, there was a lot of opposition to the book. It is essentially about the role religion plays in keeping people away from society, from doing their bit for it and from being democratic. I think Rangayana and the theatre should take on such challenges more often.”
The two-hour-fifteen-minute play will feature around 40 young and senior Rangayana artistes. Like the novel, the play is realistic in its approach.
Samskara, at Ravindra Kalakshetra, JC Road, tomorrow at 6.45 pm
For details, call 94481 30960
The event, organised by Anavarna Trust, is dedicated to the memory of Aa Na Ramesh, who passed away after an incident of road rage around eight years ago. An electrical engineer with Mico, he specialised in light-design after foraying into theatre as an actor through Sutradhara. Over 25 years, he also worked with other troupes like Ranganirathara, Ranga Sampada, Samudaya and Sanchaya, and was the managing editor for a theatre magazine brought out by Sutradhara for some time.