(Last Updated on : 11/04/2012)
Court theatre of Karnataka forms the main part of the history of Kannada theatre
. It is thus noted that the earliest available written play belonged to the last phase of the 17th century A. D. It is Mitravinda Govinda (1680 A. D) written by Narasingararya, popularly known as Singararya or Singarya, a court poet under the patronage of King Chikka Devaraja of Mysore (1672-1704). He was a nephew of Tirumalarya, a friend and minister of the king. Mitravinda Govinda is an adaptation of the Sanskrit language
play Ratnavali of Harsha. Deviations from the original are not found in the theme or development of the play, but in its characters. Instead of the lofty but mortal Udayana, the hero of the original, the immortal Krishna is made the hero in the Kannada version, perhaps in identity with the patron Chikka Devaraja - as suggested by Sri D. R. Bendre. With regard to other aspects like the movement and impression Mitravinda Govinda follows the Sanskrit language
original very closely and remains almost its replica. Apart from this play which is said to have been staged at the Mysore palace there is no earlier drama yet discovered, be it original or translation.
This however cannot lead to the conclusion that there was no theatre in Karnataka before 1700 A. D. There are adequate references in Kannada classics to the existence of Nataka. Examined independently, without viewing it as a translation, Mitravinda written in old Kannada with frequent Kanda, Padya and Akshara Gana Vritta suggests that the language was fairly well adapted for dramatic expression. If it was the very first play ever attempted in Kannada, the dramatic technique and language would not have given an impression of self-development. Apart from Nataka, a number of references, literary and otherwise, are found from time to time to the "Nataka Shale", possibly a decorated hall specially erected for performances of "Nataka".
Performances have always taken the centre stage and there is a lot of evidence to prove that court theatre of Karnataka was a happening affair. This is actually a form of Kannada theatre
that has been accepted by the people of the state.