Use of Mythological Themes in Ancient Kannada Theatre
It is true that these considerations came to affect the stage seriously; but even in the initial stages of Kannada theatre, these considerations could not have been totally ignored though not much heeded to. In the last decade of the 19th century, it was not considered a befitting theme, if it dealt with a problem that is general today and exceptional tomorrow, and so, the playwright wrote on themes which were richly symbolic of an eternal and all powerful force; and only the epics could supply them. Thus, the professional troupe began to present in a more appropriate scene, settings, stage devices and a more intelligent use of the spoken word, the same theme that Yaksagana presented in colour, costumes, dance and music. Themes from the epics seemed to hold the Kannada stage forever.
Playwrights Popular for Penning Mythological Themes
Prominent among the playwrights who wrote original plays which were based on Pauranic themes and who actively associated themselves with professional troupes were Shantakavi (Sakkari Balacharya), Srinivasakavi, Garud Sadashivarao, Narayanrao Huilgol and Kandagal Hanamantharao in North Karnatak and Bellave Narahari Shastri, Nanjangud Srikanta Sastri and B. Puttaswamiah in Mysore.
Venhannacharya Agalagatti (Srinivasa Kavi) wrote plays for, the Halsigi Dramatic Troupe on mythological themes like Shrimati Parinaya, Madalasa Parinaya, Draupadi Vastrdpaharana and Bhaumasura Vadha. Garud Sadashivarao and Kandagal Hanumantharao may not claim much credit for original themes, but indeed, they gave very original touches to the prevailing pauranic themes and made them sustain for decades. Paduka Pattabhiseka, Suddmadeva, Sairandhree and Kam-savadha written by Garud may be cited as some of the most attractive stage-plays of Karnataka.
The most prominent of playwrights who wrote for the professional stage in Mysore was Bellave Narahari Shastri who was closely associated with the Gubbi Company. A few of his plays like Krina Leela (1919), Yama Garvabhanga (1922) and Markandeya (1932) held the stage for years at length and remain popular to this day.
Another similar happy combination that brought about fruitful results on the professional stage of Mysore was that of Nanjanagud Srikanta Shastri, a scholar-playwright and A. V. Varadachar the great actor-producer. Srikanta Shastri made a prolific contribution to the dramatic literature by his translation of Telugu plays written by Veeresha Lingam Pantulu. Kanakalata Parinaya and Tiiottama are his original creations out of the Pauranic lore. His other plays like Seeta Swayamvara, Abhignana Pradhana, Seeta Parityaga, Rajasooya Yaga, Vijayabhyudaya, Dhruva Vijay and Vishnu Leele are based on dramatic episodes in the mythologies and have remained popular on the Mysore stage.
A number of others contributed original plays on Pauranic texts. Indrakeela Vijay Natakam of Mysore Seetharama Shastri, Shrimati Parinaya of Alasingachar, Nala Damayanti of Kerur Vasudevachar, Mandodari and Nachiketa of C. K. Venkataramiah are some of those plays which added colour and dignity to the professional stage of Karnatak. B. Puttaswamiah, a contemporary playwright with his ingenuous method of infusing modern thought into Pauranic themes wrote plays like Kuruksetra, Sati Tulasi and Dasavatara which are imposing and essentially theatrical like those of C. K. Venkataramiah.
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