How BJP is killing B.V. Karanth’s Rangayana

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VISHWAS KRISHNA writes: If you are in Mysore, or closely following the developments of Mysore, it is unlikely you would have missed the issue of the theatre repertory Rangayana. The organization which should have been concentrating on creative pursuits is now embroiled in a maze of bureaucratic problems.

Nataka Karnataka Rangayana, to give its full name, is a state government-funded repertory started under the tutelage of the theatre maestro, B.V. Karanth, almost 25 years ago. Most of the initial years were spent in training artistes in the production and enactment of plays. Public shows started only after a few years.

It took enormous effort, mainly by Karanth and later on by others, to build the team and for Rangayana to attain the reputation it now enjoys.

It was when Prasanna became the director that Rangayana started the practice of weekend shows. And that practice is in place till date. If you visit Rangayana on a Sunday, you can be rest assured of a play being performed at 6.30 pm (usually by Rangayana or by other teams when they are on a tour).

Being in Mysore, we get to watch other amateur team’s productions too. And as part of theatre festivals like Bahuroopi (organised by Rangayana) we get to watch performances by some of the most renowned theatre groups across the country.

But, having watched the productions of Rangayana, it is difficult to be easily impressed by any other performance. That is the standard which Rangayana has created and we Mysoreans are lucky to have such a repertory here.

After watching so many plays and shows of Rangayana repertory, unknown to them, we, the audience, have developed a kind of rapport with the actors and the team.

But now, the government, on the idiotic advice of Ranga Samaja, wants to split the team and transfer the artists and artistes, whom we have watched all these years as part of Rangayana. The issue of transfer started during the controversial tenure of B.Jayashree in 2009-10.

But fortunately for Rangayana and also for Mysore, her tenure did not last long and after her departure from here, the issue was buried, temporarily it turns out.

Now with the establishment of two more Rangayanas, one at Dharwad and another at Shimoga, the government wants to use the services of experienced actors here. The transfer of 12 actors of Rangayana to the other two branches is with the idea of facilitating the newly established Rangayanas to get proper training.

Imagine: artists, artistes, actors in a transferable job!

This is a very foolish step from the governing body, supported by the Government. It is very difficult to believe that the governing body is acting without any mala fide intention, but even if one gives them the benefit of doubt, one fails to see the logic behind this act.

Ranga Samaja is being lazy in not trying to search for new actors and instead trying to depute the actors here at Rangayana as trainers at the new branches. These people are trained to be actors and not trainers.

Moreover, the team which has been producing plays since 25 years would have developed a comfort zone with each other and it reflects in their plays too.

We Mysoreans are used to watching the plays of the same team since so many years and now, all of a sudden, if 12 actors of the team are sent away, who will act in the productions of Rangayana? Not to be disrespectful to the others, but the 12 actors who are transferred are among the best actors of the team, at least for me, personally.

If they are not part of the team, there is no way I or many other regular Rangayana audiences would watch the plays. It also means that the repeat shows of the old productions, of which, these 12 actors are part of would not be performed or would be performed by the new actors who are not as experienced as the present team.

There is no way the quality of the productions will remain the same. The highest standards of acting which we have come to expect from Rangayana would be lost forever.

Ranga Samaja and also, the government, have to remember that Rangayana Mysore was started with 25 fresh faces. It is difficult to guess as to what is stopping them from doing the same at the other two newly established Rangayanas.

The actors are now fighting for cancellation of the transfer order and exploring many ways to solve this problem. And the director of Rangayana, B.V. Rajaram, who also supported the actors in their protest against the transfer order, was immediately sacked.

Curiously, the director was not taken into confidence before the transfer orders were issued to the actors. The incident only shows the dictatorial attitude of the outgoing BJP government towards one of the most prominent cultural institutions of Karnataka.

This is something the actors of Rangayana should have realised long back, but at least now, hopefully, after this issue gets solved, they should realise that the more quicker they come out of the clutches of Ranga Samaja and the bureaucracy, the better it is.

We, the audience, do not know who are the members of the governing body and how are they elected and for how long they remain elected. But we are now aware that such a thing exists and we want the old Rangayana back, free of its clutches from the unknown and faceless Ranga Samaja and the non-empathetic bureaucracy.

Photograph: courtesy B.S. Bhooshan

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