Halageri Company, formed near Ranebennur - small village, attracted the attention of every ambitious artist and playwright with its experiments in the dramatic field. The stage was to be a co-operative adventure and in the year 1912, the villagers invited applications for shares and established a dramatic troupe called the Sri Halasiddheswara Prasadita Sangeeta Nataka Sabha.
Early Years of Halageri Company
The management of the company was initially entrusted to Linganagowda Patil, but the troupe really came to prominence about five years later when Dodda Jettappa took charge of it. He was not an actor to start with. Some say that he set foot on the stage in 1918 at the village Byadgi. The early failures of the company had run it down into debts and the creditors used to come immediately after the box office was opened in the evening. Dodda Jettappa thought it wise to be on the stage in make-up in order to avoid these unwelcome visitors. He therefore just put on some paint on his face, wore any attire that was unwanted by others and appeared on the stage in unimportant roles. Immediately after the close of the play, he would get away from the green room straight to the railway station and would come again to Byadgi only on the evening of the next show. This forced necessity became his habit, and soon, Jettappa discovered that he was an actor. Gradually, he learnt to play Sumanta in the play Paduka, Ashoka in Visama Vivaha and later, even a complex role like Vikranta in Raksasi Mahatvakanksa. His reputation as an actor of outstanding ability spread over the whole of North Karnataka. His fame earned money for the troupe and enabled it to travel all over the entire Kannada land for 12 years. Later, his brother, K. C. Chikka Jettappa, who had already become known for his comic roles took up the reins of the troupe and managed it with equal success.
If Venkobarao`s troupe came to be recognised for its rich settings and lustrous production, and Vamanarao`s for homely dialogue and alluring music, the Halageri Troupe made a great name for its penetrating humour. The Jettappas considered that the purpose of drama was to give a hearty laugh to the audiences. They were not much mistaken, to judge by results. Soon the Halageri Company had become very well known indeed. Its plays were essentially social in theme - ones that provided scope for humour were particularly selected. In the line of successes came College girl, B. A. Pathani Pasha and Black Market. It was sometimes a case of catering to low tastes, the jokes were now and then ugly or went too far, but on no evening was the gallery empty. The troupe earned money and fame and was eagerly welcomed in cities like Bengaluru and Mangalore. It is said that the troupe shifted the emphasis in drama from the hero to the jester.
Rise of Popularity for Halageri Company
Ever since the visit of this troupe to Mangalore
, it is said, a habit was created among the people there, whenever a new professional group appeared, to enquire who was playing the role of the jester. Humour was not the whole play though it was quite a considerable part of it. The troupe staged a few serious and significant plays also like Bemaraddi Mallamma, Paduka, Chitrangada and Tippu Sultan
, Though the presentation was rather rude, it is said that it was a calculated rudeness, for, both Jettappas paid great attention to rehearsals and preparation before the play was produced. Sri Sivarama Karanth who was the practising manager of the Halageri Company for some months, speaks of some of the ideal qualities of the leader who kept the troupe under control and in good humour.
Contribution of Halageri Company
The Halageri Company`s contribution to the Karnataka
stage was humour which was the secret of its own success. It was a success well merited, though not without its drawbacks. All said and done, the troupe had found the secret of drawing a full house every evening. Many a professional troupe tried to follow in the foot-steps of the Halageri Company, but soon found that the Halageri Company had something more than mere flippant humour which they could not capture. It had considerable acting talent, an eye for the right kind of play and an unquenchable thirst for experiment and adventure. Their performances did become subjects of controversy; nevertheless, they served a purpose, showed a way for the ambitious and experimenting producer and more than all, they surely lived in the memory of their audiences.