Radhana ata, which in course of time, assumed another name - Rajana ata, retained the method, manner and music of the Maharashtra Tamasa
. Its song styles came from Chhakkada, Kawwali and Lavani. Violin
, the original musical instruments of Dasarata, came to be replaced with Sarangi
and Dhappa. The only factor that remained unchanged was the dominant sentiment of love. Radhana ata thrived gloriously on account of its love theme. It is even today occasionally seen in the villages of North Karnataka
. With its chorus, improvised talking, recitative poetry and humour of the all pervading jester, this mode of the folk theatre did satisfy to a considerable extent the claims of a full-fledged drama. The performance was so popular that every village in North Karnataka had one or two troupes of Radhana ata twenty years ago.
Defined Framework and Social Themes
Romantic form and theme of Radhana ata hit another mark by bringing down the performance to the social plane. The departure from the mythological theme is particularly significant, as the change was first achieved by the folk theatre much earlier than its professional counterpart. Prominent among the social themes are Rupasingana ata, Mukkunda Govinda and Sangya Balya. As is typical with folklore, authors of these plays are unknown, though the performances themselves are just about eighty years old. All the three plays are believed to have been based on incidents from real life and each one of them deals with a typically romantic theme. Rupasingana ata deals with the love theme of a married soldier Ramasinga - falling in love with a married girl Kamalaksi while away in a different city. He neglected Gunavati, his wife and Rupasinga, his son. When the latter went to him and entreated, Ramasinga gave in and decided to get back to his home town. This decision infuriated Kamalaksi and she murdered him one night. Learning of the tragedy, wife Gunavati and son Rupasinga appeared on the scene again and sang prayers to God. Their prayers were rewarded, for God came in the garb of a sanyasi
and brought Ramasinga back to life. Mukkunda Govinda deals with a love theme again. It is about two devoted friends, one of whom fell in love with the wife of the other. The resulting complications came to an end when the friend made an offer of his wife for the sake of friendship.
Sangya Balya is also built around an illicit love-affair between Sangya, an aristocrat in the village and Ganga, the young wife of a cultivator; a love-affair which resulted in the murder of the former by Irappa, the husband of Ganga
. The performances sustained well with their amorous songs and exciting dialogues. There was not much of make-up and costume in these plays as they were built on social themes. A chorus consisting of about eight singers remained essential. A speciality of the performance was the theme itself which marked advancement in the folk theatre of Karnataka
from the mythological plane was sudden and revolutionary, particularly on the folk-stage, but soon, social themes became popular.
These plays painted love, with its dangerous aspects magnified. Anything excessive had to meet a punishment in the conservative eye of the folk, and so, murder and death became inevitable in them. The ritual tendency still persisted when Gods were brought down to revive the dead into life. Indeed, the plays had a moral undertone. To the folk-audience they appealed for informal presentation, the very voluptuous theme and the comparatively crude and sometimes vulgar acting. The plays had good poetry set into charming native tunes but more than the music and moral tone, it is perhaps the presence of a lady on the stage as the central figure of an amorous theme that kept the play going and made it popular. The performance proved to be a link between the ancient and modern phases of the folk theatre.