Movie Goes Behind the Scenes of All-Night Play

A Kuvempu novel became a nine-hour play acted out on four platforms. A film documenting its making is just out

Published: 16th September 2014 06:03 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th September 2014 06:03 AM   |  A+A-


BANGALORE: A film about Malegalalli Madumagalu, a nine-hour all-night play directed by C Basavalingaiah, documents interesting aspects of its making.

Screened on Sunday at KV Subanna Aptha Rangamandira in Teachers’ Colony (near Kumaraswamy Layout), the 90-minute documentary records the creation of the stage adaptation of Kuvempu’s 1967 novel of the same title.

Malegalalli Madumagalu means ‘the bride in the hills’. The story is set in Malnad, the thickly forested and mountainous regions of central Karnataka. The film took the audience through what happened for months ahead of the production — the creation of sets (including four separate stages, going beyond the proscenium style of performance) and props by Pramod Shiggaon, the writing of the stage adaptation by K Y Narayanaswamy, and the composing of tunes by Hamsalekha (for over 40 songs). It also has shots of the dance rehearsals, and some lighter moments.

Many of the cast were actors seasoned by the five-year intensive Ragayana course and took it upon them to train the others, first timers, in the basics of acting. As Basavalingaiah said later, the actors remain central to the production.

Moreover, for this particular experiment, no actor was more important than the other, even as no character takes precedence over the rest in the original work.

“As Kuvempu wrote, and it has been retained in one of the songs, no one is important, and no one unimportant (Yaaroo mukhyaralla, yaaroo amukhyaralla). There is no hero or heroine, no protagonist or antagonist,” said Basavalingaiah. 

Animals too - a pig, a dog, a horse, leeches (one of them nine feet long) - all essayed by actors have equal and impressive roles.

Following the screening of the documentary and the rather disconnected bits of the nine-hour production captured on camera, the director interacted with the audience, sharing more backstage trivia. The production opened in Rangayana, Mysore in 2010. When it was brought to Bangalore in the summer of 2013, it was staged at Kalaagraama.

Incidentally, the third stage where a number of deaths, including a suicide, take place, is where the samadhis of G S Shivarudrappa and U R Ananthamurthy have now come up. “And right here, we have planted a peepal tree and started the National School of Drama course,” said Basavalingaiah, currently NSD Bangalore’s director.

The production has so far seen 15 complete shows in Mysore and 24 in Bangalore. Some of the shows weren’t completed, and had to be cancelled because of summer showers. The documentary tells us that the director wasn’t in the least ruffled by the rains, and he is quoted as saying, ‘What is Malnad without the rains?’

So he and a couple of others already had an inkling that it would pour and had arranged for tents and plastic sheets to shelter the audience. “Once or twice, the sun was up by the time the rains stopped, and this production is best watched at night. So we told people that they could come with the same ticket for the next show rather than carry on,” he said, adding that he was surprised by the patience the audience showed.

Basavalingaiah also went on to talk about the objection ‘Malegalli Madumagalu’ found among some theatre practitioners.

“Someone said that it wasn’t a play at all, and I wholeheartedly agreed, ‘Yes, it’s a stage adaptation, not a play." One of the reasons he took up a novel, and not for the first time - he was also instrumental in using folk forms to adapt Devanur Mahadeva’s Dyaavanooru for Ninasam’s Tirugata troupe - was because he wanted to take literature to the youth.

“People don’t want to read anymore, but after watching shows like ours, I hope that they will feel like reading Kuvempu once more,” he said. And he heard that reprints of the novel followed its stage adaptation.

“Tejaswi’s works don’t sell as well, but his father’s, it has become a bestseller,” he said to a room-full of appreciative guffaws, hinting that Bangalore might see more shows of the production soon.

The film

Malegalalli Madumagalu and the documentary on its making have been funded by Department of Information and Public Relations. Both the play and the documentary have been filmed by wildlife photographer duo Krupakar-Senani. The film, giving a peek into the processes involved in coming up with the stage production, might be an interesting watch for theatre lovers, while the film of the play itself is mainly for students of theatre. The DVDs are available with the Department of Information and Public Relations (the making) and Total Kannada, Jayanagar 4th Block (Malegalalli Madumagalu).


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