In 2000, three amateur actors, Ravindra Poojary, Ramesh Poojary and Jayathirtha, who shared a passion for theatre decided to get together at the HN auditorium of National College in Jayanagar, Bangalore, and start work on the production of a play.
They picked Mohan Rakesh’s Ashadada Ondu Dina (Ashad Ka Ek Din in Hindi, translated into Kannada by Siddalinga Pattanashetty). They called themselves Samashti and thus began a journey that has been giving the Kannada stage one play every year ever since. The troupe, constantly on the lookout for fresh talent, has broken away from the need to project big names in order to do well.
Samashti has now grown to be a group of about 50 members. Other than the two directors—Manjunath L. Badiger and Sathish—it has on board, for most of the members of Samashti, theatre is a passion rather than their bread and butter. “Theatre is not serious business in Karnataka and it’s difficult for us to even break even on the investment we make on each production,” says Ravindra Poojary, one of the founders, who earns a living as a chartered account.
Ravindra, 41, points out that the opening of Ranga Shankara—modelled on Mumbai’s Prithvi Theatre, the theatre opened in 2004 and galavanized the theatre scene in Bangalore—came as a lifeline to thespians as well as new actors and directors of Kannada theatre. “Now we don’t have to shell out exorbitant amounts for a performance space, and can even manage to break even on fresh investments on productions” he says.
The troupe will be staging two productions this week at Ranga Shankara—its last year’s hit Miss Sadarame and Aavaanthara, a new production.
Aavaanthara is esentially three stories presented as a single play: Ajji Baayige Benki Kolli, by Savitha Nagabhushana, revolves around the relationship between children in a city neighbourhood, and Suma, whose house they play in; Jayanthana Svagatha, by P. Lankesh explores the bond between a man and his elederly parents; Biddurina Big Ben, by Srinivasa Vaidya, is a comic tale of a young man sent to a village on election duty who finds himself stuck there, without any sense of time, because his watch has stopped functioning.
Miss Sadarame, which won the second prize at 2008’s Rangabhoomi Natakostav (a state theatre competition) is a modern take on Sadarame, originally written by Bellave Narahari Shastry. The play retells the story of a middle-class girl who depends on her wits to overcome the hurdles that come her way when she falls in love with a prince. The play, directed by Badiger, has been performed 17 times so far in Karnataka. Miss Sadarame is edging towards becoming as well known and popular as the original play.
Catch Avaanthara on May 20 at 7:30 pm at Ranga Shankara and Miss Sadarameat the same venue on May 21 at 7:30 pm.