If Infosys cares for Kannada and Culture…

Had gone to Rangayana last night to see Girish Karnad’s Tughlaq. One reason was to keep up the New Year resolution of doing things I haven’t before (including starting a blog, for instance).

But the real reason was that the play was being directed by Chidambara Rao Jambe, the director of Rangayana.

Jambe (which is a tree in the Western Ghats, where he hails from) has been my walking partner, off and on, at the Kukkarahalli Lake, and I didn’t want to be stumped if he asked if I had seen his work.

Needless to say, Tughlaq was riveting stuff. Even at Rs 25 a ticket, it was a full house. And the mensinakayi bajji and hot tea at ‘Ranga Darshini’ was bombaat.

What my walking conversations with Jambe have really convinced me about is how bogus the State Government’s commitment to “Kannada and Culture” really is.

Not just this government but every government.

On the face of it, each Chief Minister lists his determination to make Kannada the administrative language as one of his major aims. And each new Chief Minister promises to give Kannada and Culture the kind of push they need in a globalising world. But once the TV crews have grabbed the soundbyte and left, it’s apathy as usual.

Rangayana’s plight epitomises the doublespeak of the average Karnataka politician.

The way Jambe puts it, it’s a hand-to-mouth existence for the brainchild of B.V. Karanth, and the miracle is that they even have the motivation to stage Tughlaq.

The State Government, believe it or not, pays only the salaries of the 34 staffers, comprising the creative and technical side of the repertory along with the administrative staff.

For everything else, says Jambe, they have to go around with the begging bowl.

That ‘everything’ includes power bills, which runs into a couple of lakhs every year. That ‘everything’ includes water bills. That ‘eveything’ includes promotion, publicity.

That ‘everything’ includes the cost of staging new plays. That ‘everything’ includes any new initiative Rangayana may want to take to take theatre to the masses. And so on.

Staging home productions like Tughlaq fetches some money (approximately Rs 10,000 per show). Renting out the theatre fetches some more. Still, the tragedy is that instead of thinking up great new ideas, instead of implementing those great new ideas, Rangayana is scrounging around.

An even greater tragedy is no one wants to help.

Jambe says he once went to the Mysore Urban Development Authority, which is splurging millions on signboards proclaiming MUDA’s ubiquitous existence, to donate some.

“I told them that a City’s infrastructure could not be laid with brick and mortar alone. They need to have a thick layer of arts and culture, too. But they said they did not have the provision for such donations,” says Jambe.

Result: once next weekend’s shows of Tughlaq end, Jambe will be back at doing what he has been doing for the last couple of years. Which is, to make ends meet.

I have asked Jambe why Rangayana cannot go in for corporate sponsorship.

The first answer is obvious. Rangayana is a government baby; it won’t like private players rocking the cradle.

The second answer is that Jambe and artistes of his ilk have seen what Hutch has done to Ranga Shankara, the theatre set up by Arundhati Nag.

And Jambe himself has seen what The Times of India did to the national theatre fest recently.

In other words, they are scared that the sponsors will take over Rangayana lock, stock and barrel and have them dancing to their tunes, forcing them to dumb down, sell their souls to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

I have been telling Jambe that a good solution may be to get a bunch of “Equal Partners”. Corporates who, regardless of the depth of their pockets, will all donate the same amount of money to a fund, the interest from which will go to pay for the electricity bills and water bills and promotion bills.

Jambe is interested, but are the corporates?

Infosys is in Mysore. BEML is in Mysore. Nestle is in Mysore. TVS is in Mysore. Wipro is in Mysore. ITDC is in Mysore. Reid & Taylor is in Mysore. AT&S is in Mysore. Bacardi is in Mysore. L&T is in Mysore.

You get the picture?

Some of India’s biggest, most profitable companies, are located in our midst. Imagine what five lakh rupees from each one of them can do to Rangayana in particular and to Kannada and Culture in general.

Who will get the message across?