MYSURU: A group of engineering students, engineering professionals and retired engineers gather in a huge hall and discuss something seriously. If you think they are discussing designs, buildings, artificial intelligence, engines or structures, then you are wrong! All of them are seriously discussing about their upcoming theatre production. Meet the team of ‘Abhiyenthararu’ (engineers in Kannada), a 26-year-old Mysuru-based theatre troupe of, for, and by the engineers. Established in 1993 by Suresh Babu H S and like-minded engineers, this theatre group has staged many plays across the nation engaging nearly 400 diploma and engineering students, graduates and professionals.
Suresh Babu says, “There is a general feeling among the people that engineers are more obsessed with the western culture and don’t know the culture of this land and the classical literature. We wanted to disprove it through Abhiyenthararu. Our theatre group serves as a platform for the engineers and engineering graduates to realise their creative talent and showcase it to the people.”
“Initially many students faced problems in reading the scripts as they were in Kannada and over 30-40% of them had no reading habit. But they took it as a challenge, practised hard and learnt it,” he says.
A group of like-minded engineering professionals who had a keen interest in theatre initially started staging plays under the ‘Abhiyenthararu’ banner. The theatre group first staged a Kannada play ‘Ondu Halliya Kathe’ during an event organised by the BEML Kannada Sangha, which received the best play award.
This was a great turning point for them. They then decided to make this as an exclusive theatre group for the engineers. The team later came up with some good theatre productions including P Lankesh’s Sankranthi, Parvathavani’s Ishtartha, August Strindberg’s Father enthralling theatre buffs.The team then decided to widen its presence. It started a theatre course ‘Rangabhoomiyattha’ (Towards Theatre) in 2008 exclusively for engineers, engineering and diploma engineering students and professionals.
In the last eleven years since the launch of this course, nearly 400 engineering students and graduates from different engineering colleges like the National Institute of Engineering( NIE) , SJCE and Vidhyavardhaka College of Engineering and engineering professionals working in various big corporates like Infosys, L&T, Wipro, IBM, Excel Soft, TCS, Rane Madras and BEML have completed their one-month-long theatre course at Abhiyenthararu.
Renowned theatre personalities like C Basavalingaiah, Pralayan from Tamil Nadu, Manjunath Badigar, Rajendra Karanth, Thulasidhar Kurup, Prasanna Ramaswamy, Dingri Ninasam have conducted theatre classes during the course. At the end of the course, the trained engineers and engineering graduates stage a play.
Abhiyenthararu, which completed its silver jubilee last year, has staged 23 Kannada plays and one English play ‘Lights Out’ in the past two-and-a-half decades. Most of the plays are based on social issues.The team has staged plays at various national and state level theatre festivals. Most of their theatre productions are based on novels. Poornachandra’s ‘Mayaloka’ and ‘Chidambara Rahasya’ staged by them, have received an overwhelming response.
“Many people who see our productions come back to us and say that they are now reading the novel after watching the play. It feels good that people are developing their reading habits and giving importance to Kannada literature,” says Suresh Babu.Pointing out that Abhiyenthararu helped him improve his reading habit, Naveen Chandra, an engineering graduate and a member of the team says, “I have been a part of this theatre group since the last six years. I did my one-month theatre course here and I got a chance to learn so many things being an active member of this group. Theatre helped me improve my reading habit, helped me on how to handle a situation and how to react in a situation. It helps us to know our strengths and weaknesses.”
“I have worked on stage and also backstage. I am working as an Assistant Director for a play and I aim to be a director,” says Naveen Chandra, who worked as a system engineer in an MNC for three years before quitting his job to dedicate his full time for this theatre group.From an 18-year-old engineering student to a 62-year-old retired engineer, from a girl student to working women, Abhiyenthararu has proved that age is just a number and passion can unite everyone.
Mahadevaswamy N S, a retired executive engineer who is an active member of this theatre group, says, “I have been aware of Suresh Babu’s work for the last 15 years but I became a part of the team two years back when I retired from my professional life. In the last two years, I have acted in two productions and I must admit that it has helped me be more active and has boosted my confidence.”
Sushamashree S, who works as a senior engineer in Larsen and Toubro (L&T), says that she is glad to be part of this theatre group. She says it is refreshing when she engages in theatre activities post work.
“Initially I found it difficult as I had to rush to the practice after office hours, but now it has become a part of my life. Whenever there is an opportunity, I take part in the theatre production with great enthusiasm,” she says.
Many who are part of this theatre group and completed their theatre course are successful in Film and television field. Viraat, who was the lead actor of the recently released Kannada film ‘Kiss’, Pavan Tej, who was the protagonist in the movie ‘Atharva’, Abhinav Raj who has acted in an award-winning short film ‘Rita’ are all members of Abhiyenthararu.
Explaining about the challenges they face, Suresh Babu says, “Mysuru which is considered as a cultural city doesn’t have a rehearsal shed. We conduct our practice at a hall provided in the Kannada Sahitya Parishath building. It becomes tough for the amateur theatre troupes to conduct practice sessions, rehearsals without a designated place.”
Abhiyenthararu is a special theatre group by the engineers, and for the engineers. This has been a great platform for engineering graduates and professionals to prove their creative talent. Babu is doing a great job by not just staging plays across the state but also conducting annual theatre workshops and a national theatre festival— C Basavalingaiah, noted theatre personality
I have been part of ‘Abhiyenthararu’ since 2013 and have acted in over 30 shows across the state. This platform has given a good base for my acting career. I did not just learn acting here but also learnt the lessons of life— Abhinav Raj, film actor
I have been aware of Suresh
Babu’s work for the last 15 years but I became a part of the team two years back when I retired from my professional life. In the last two years, I have acted in two productions and I must admit that it has helped me be more active and has boosted my confidence—Mahadevaswamy N S, a retired executive engineer
Many people who see our productions come back to us and say that they are now reading the novel after watching the play. It feels good that people are developing their reading habits and giving importance to Kannada literature— Suresh Babu