(Last Updated on : 11/04/2012)
Impromptu play which is becoming popular in and around India is hardly about two decades old. The "staff plays" produced annually by the staff members of the Maharaja's College of Mysore
to entertain the outgoing students, were perhaps the first impromptu plays in the Indian state
. The busy professors, who had neither the leisure nor the patience to rehearse a written play met on the day of the performance, thought of a theme, discussed details regarding its development and went on the stage in make-up. The details of the play and its duration depended entirely on the ingenuity of the actors who had to react intelligently to all he un expected expressions, interrogations and twists and turns of speech provided by each other, at the same time ensuring that the play moved on to a successful climax.
The aim of the play was to provide hilarity but its actual shape could never be determined before hand. In a way, the Impromptu play is a challenge to the intelligence, alertness and histrionic ability of its actors and its success depends entirely on their genius. It is true that the seeds of the Impromptu play are seen in the folk performances like Prasanga and Yaksagana
, but even there, the orbit of the theme is defined by the Bhagavata
whose songs are interpreted in dialogues by the characters. The Prasanga too is more an intellectual exposition of a theme than a regular play. The Impromptu play, however, with its uncertainty even with regard to the theme, can not be compared with the above mentioned folk performances which seem to stand on a surer footing. The very quality of its charming uncertainty has made the Impromptu play very popular both with the artist and the audience.
Initiated by the staff of the Mysore College under the Guidance of the brilliant N. Kasturi and N. S. Narayana Sastri, the Impromptu play caught the attention of the Kannada land. Several amateur troupes tried it with success. Impromptu play competitions became an attractive feature of Kannada literary conferences. With its unexpected pitfalls and ever present excitement, the Impromptu play always provided an excellent training ground for the artist: it taught him to be on the alert and gave him an understanding of the needs of the stage. It is an acid-test of his talent, a bountiful entertainment to the audience and a workshop where new ideas are continually fashioned.
Natyachata: The Monologue
Another recent and very popular theatrical form is the Natyachata of North Karnataka or the Ekapatra of Mysore. Its effectiveness lies in its technical expertise. An individual actor, all alone on the stage, creates for himself and the spectator, the illusion of a play. Like a man in the drawing room carrying a conversation with his wife who is in the kitchen, the actor converses with his invisible and inaudible opposite role and replies to all the latter's whys and wherefores: a play is being enacted but only one character speaks. Natyachata crowns the work of a clever actor. Its duration is necessarily much shorter than that of a one-act play, for it would otherwise become monotonous. Its tone is humorous and its method arresting. A suggestive and pointed natyachata, well performed, is as satisfying as a one-act play.