A man for challenges
B.V. Karanth's relationship with theatre and Varanasi came to the fore this past week.
Recently Abhirang, a well-known theatre group, celebrated the lifetime contribution of B.V. Karanth in Varanasi. Babukodi Vyankatramana Karanth was born onSeptember19, 1929 and died on September 1, 2002.
Accepting the challenge
Karanth had a special relationship with this city. In 1974 he first came here and organised a 40-day theatre workshop onthe historical play "Chandragupta" written by Jaishankar Prasad. This was the time in theatre, when every theatre person claimed that the plays of Prasad were difficult to performandproduce. Only Karanth took the vow to produce "Chandragupta" . He also produced "Skandagupta" here in 1976 followed by "Malvikagnimitram". He came to Varanasi for the last time in 1997. This past week Abhirang presented three plays "Dasharupaka", "Malivkagnimitram" and "Andher Nagari". Karanth wanted to present "Chhote Saiyad Bade Saiyad" and "Sandhya Bhasa" but unfortunately he could not see his dream. "A play becomes my best production only when I use all the resources that are available in an imaginative way," said Karanth before leaving Varanasi.Again in 1999, when a National Seminar on Dhvani was organised and the convener tried to invite him , he refused saying, "Behenji (organiser of Dhvani and musicologist Premlata Sharma) is no more. I wanted to stage `Malvikagnimitram' before her, so why should I come? I am disturbed."
In August 2002, he planned a visit but severe illness prevented him. He instructed, "Do this play by your own cultivated form and resources for Karanth's sake." A month later he passed away.Karanth ji treated this Sanskrit play as a farce. "I already staged this play and treated it as a farce because the central situation of the play needed such treatment, as I had done with `Andher Nagari'. A king who already has two queens, falls in love with a maidservant. The erotic mingles with the comic and a unique rasa is created. The audience of Varanasi recall me as a Master of Chandragupta and Skandagupta. I want to treat Kalidasa the same way as well."
These were his last words devoted to theatre art. A Post Graduate in Hindi, and Diploma holder in Music, Karanth joined National School of Drama with his mate Ebrahim Alkazi in 1960. He started his journey with theatre, all over India starting with "Chandragupta" in Varanasi. "I wanted to settle in Varanasi not in Bhopal or Bangalore but it couldn't happen. I feel there exists a cosmic music in this ancient sacred city. I want an original Hindi play constructed with local dialects of Banaras," he said. In 1996, at the home of senior Hindi poet Kunwar Narain in Lucknow, he repeated, "Like the Karnataka repertory, I would like to create a Banaras repertory before my death because the local theatre persons love me so much. I will do so whether anyone cooperates with me or not. This city must have its own theatre other than Nagri Natak Mandali. Natyashastra describes five technical terms swagata, prakasha, akashabhashita, janantika and apavarita. To address a person in this world, I stay with these terms and I will be with these terms in my next visit."
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