(Last Updated on : 09/04/2012)
Influence of English on Kannada Theatre has affected the theatre in the state. Mainly the language has been taken from the west, as lot of plays and stories have been adapted and also translated into Kannada language. Extremely pleased with the performance of Shakuntala staged by the Palace Company, the Maharaja Chamarajendra Wodeyar, in 1882, expressed a desire that the well known plays from other languages also, particularly from English, be translated into Kannada language
Greatly encouraged by this, learned men like A. Anandarao, C. Subba Rao, Basavappa Shastri and Jayarayacharya set themselves to translate into Kannada, the well known plays of Shakespeare. C. Subba Rao, who was connected with the Royal School, translated Othello and completed it with the assistance of Basavappa Shastri who must have given final touches to the work. The translation was called Surasena Charitre. A. Ananda Rao, a Forest Settlement Officer, with the assistance of Pandit Jayarayacharya, translated Romeo and Juliet (Ramavarma Leelavati Charitre), Merchant of Venice (Panchali Parinaya) and Hamlet. The translations, when staged by the Palace Company, came to be relished, and inspired others to translate plays from the English dramatic literature.
M. L. Srikantagowda was one of the first and foremost men to translate Shakespearean plays. The best known of his translations are of Macbeth (Pratapa Rudradeva) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (Pramilarjuniya). His attempt to place the themes in native settings met with considerable success, but it necessarily made him deviate from the original in details. He gave popular local names to the original characters and employed easy flowing simple Kannada. Of his renderings, Pratapa Rudradeva is better known and, has been, repeatedly staged by the Ratnavali Theatrical Company of Varadachar. D. V. Gundappa's rendition of Macbeth does more justice to the original with its accuracy in expression and its dignified blank verse. It is hailed as giving a convincing and intimate glimpse of Shakespeare, but no professional troupe has yet attempted to stage it. Taming of the Shrew has been well adapted into Kannada by K. Lakshmana Rao as Chandi Mada Mardana Nataka and also by Parvatavani as Bahaddur Ganda. Both the versions seem to sustain well on the stage and the latter has been staged quite often in the Mysore area. The prominent among other renderings of English plays into Kannada is Birugali, an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest by K. V. Puttappa. Its poetical merit, beauty of expression and grandeur of imagination have made it look like an original play rather than an adaptation. Others deserving mention here are Vicharane an adaptation by Devudu of Trial of Jesus of John Masefield, Savina Samasye, a rendering of Twice is too much, done by Vembar Venkatacharya, Sootrada Bombe an effective rendering by S. G. Shastry of Ibsen's A Doll's House and Asadhabhooti a beautiful adaptation by A. N. Moorthy Rao of Molier's Tartuffe. Not one of these plays was taken up by the professional stage, for, "though they had poetical worth and literary merit, they did not have sufficient theatrical strength". However, quite a few of them have been taken up by the amateur stage.
In North Karnataka, Gundo Krishna Churamuri seems to have been the first to have translated Shakespeare. His rendering of Othello as Raghavendrarao Nataka (printed in 1885) is a broad adaptation of the original rather than its true translation. Later, Gadigayya Hucchayya Honnapurmath translated Taming of the Shrew under the title Tratika Nataka. Dwesa Bhandara an adaptation of Macbeth by Harnahalli Ananthrao did not suit the professional stage. Sheridan's The School for Scandal named Mohini or Nindakara Nadavali is better known. More popular Kannada versions of Shakespeare's plays came from Kerur Vasudevacharya whose rendering of A Mid Summer Night's Dream (Vasantayamini Swapna Chamatkara Nataka ), Merchant of Venice (Suratana-garada Sresti), Romeo and Juliet (Ramesh-Lalita) and Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer (Pati Vashikarana) caught the attention of the reading public rather than the theatre-goers. Evidently no professional company came forward to stage them, but every effort was made to bring them on the amateur stage by the Vasudeva Amateurs of Bagalkot.
This brief account would suggest that the Kannada renderings of some of the well-known English plays enriched the dramatic literature of Karnataka
rather than adding anything substantial to its professional stage. The professional troupes did not take to them as enthusiastically as they took to the Kannada renderings of Sanskrit Plays. The objection was obviously to the western theme, which, though provided scope for good entertainment, did not preach morals like the ones drawn from our epics; nor did it come near the land's history, nor reflected on a social evil or a problem of immediate concern. According to available evidences, only the Palace Company and later, the Ratnavali Company staged some of the adaptations from Shakespeare, particularly, Ramavarma Lilavati (Romeo and Juliet) and Surasena Charitre (Othello). Even theirs was a bold adventure considering the standards of the time, but the plays sustained themselves on the stage, essentially owing to the histrionic brilliance of eminent artists like Certain Ramarao and A.V. Varadachar. The adaptations became popular with the Amateur stage because of the initiative of enthusiastic troupes like The Amateur Dramatic Association and the Chaya Artists
and The Vasudev Amateurs of Bagalkot.