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MANGALORE: When theatre director Jeevanram Sullia likens the popular Tulu theatre to laughter clubs, he does so only to explain their utilitarian value for the average Tuluva.
That probably explains why Vijayakumar Kodialbail's mega hit ‘Oriyad-dori asal' crossed 700 shows and his ‘Madime' had its 255th show on Monday, while productions by other troupes such as ‘Badkad Orinda...?' and ‘Tilake Tirgaye' headed for their 151st and 114th shows the same day. Productions such as ‘Bale cha parka' and ‘Kode ini elle' have set records. More than 500 people are totally dependent on theatre and earn upwards of Rs. 10,000 a month. Some senior artistes earn up to Rs. 30,000 a month. No other language theatre in Karnataka is as widely accepted.“You go around the town, you will find a play being staged somewhere,” Mr. Sullia says. Local newspapers have advertisements of at least five performances in and around the city every day.
The fall in the quality of Yakshagana shows, where attempts to modernise it were spurned by the audiences, and the fake performances by orchestras (where singers fake singing while actually playing CDs), has provided a platform for the new medium to grow, according to Mr. Kodialbail.
Shunning the vulgarity of company dramas, Tulu dramas brought in fresh air to become hubs of family entertainment.
The rise did not happen all of a sudden. Pioneers of Tulu modern drama such as Mr. Kodialbail first introduced ‘Oriye mage' 22 years ago. But he had to wait till his third venture, ‘Oriyad-dori asal' to get accepted by the Tulu populace. Those who split away from his troupe have also tasted success as playwrights and directors and managers of their own troupes.
Golden era over?
Mr. Kodialbail, however, says that the theatre producers have exhausted their armoury and have nothing fresh to offer. Many among the audience have begun to murmur “Dumbuda lekka ijji” (not like the ones before).
Tulu theatre is purely entertainment oriented, says chief of the Konkani art centre Kalaangan Eric Ozario, though it has found acceptance among those speaking Konkani and Beary languages as well. He sees it as being far from the modern techniques and intellectual quotient of Marathi and Bengali films.
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