(Last Updated on : 12/04/2012)
Playhouses in Kannada theatre are some popular places that have, over the years, hosted some of the prestigious plays. Many of these old stage-methods seem to have persisted to reveal themselves glaringly even after the turning of the century. With the increasing financial stability of professional troupes, their performances became a whit more natural and certainly, more imposing. The well-to-do ones equipped themselves with their own tents to provide better shelter to the village audiences and also better seating arrangements with chairs and benches (Kalu mane) for upper classes. In the cities, where the halls proved insufficient to house the crowding audiences, spacious pandals were erected.
Flourishing of Play-houses in Kannada Theatre
The Palace Company of Mysore started the tradition of constructing them in the nineties of the last century, and by 1920, Varadachar, Veeranna, Shirahatti Venkobarao, Garud and all other important professionals moved with their heavy but mobile equipment to construct at a short notice, spacious pandals to house even 1,500 to 2,000 spectators. Later still, the zinc sheet pandal put up in 1934 by Veeranna in Bengaluru and Mysore for showing the play Kurukshetra accommodated about 4,000 spectators. The Gubbi Company, during its extensive touring of South India after 1935, had to move only in special trains because of its huge equipment and personnel. In addition to the improvised structures at different places, regular play-houses came to be constructed in big cities both by individual proprietors like Veeranna and K. Hirannayya, and also by local institutions.
The Municipal Town-halls, which sprang up almost in every important city, made specific provision for the performances of plays by visiting troupes. Such bountiful construction of regular play-houses is not seen in North Karnataka, though big cities like Hubli, Dharwar, Belgaum and Gadag prove exceptions. By the year 1930, every important city in Karnataka had its own play-house. It is a fact however, that many of them lacked the fundamental conveniences like separate Green-rooms, good ventilation and decent seating arrangement. Yet they provided a place for performances.
Neither the troupe nor the audiences seemed to mind the manifold inconveniences in these play-houses, but after the advent of the Talkies late in the thirties of the century, the stage suffered a major set-back, because many of these play-houses were immediately converted into film-houses. Some others which persisted in continuing as play-houses, yielded later to become granaries during the World War II. A few of the theatres in big cities like Bengaluru
, Tumkur, Hubli
and Gadag, however, remained exceptions. Many a troupes who could not afford its own pandal, suffered a gradual death. The years that followed were gloomy for the professional troupe, and it looked that after the Second World War with the prices of commodities soaring high, neither the city nor the village could afford to build play-houses. But the cinema did not suffer. Every good village built its own film-house. Leading cities built tens of them at huge costs but even the biggest city in Karnataka has not yet built up a worthy play-house with sufficient stage equipment, provision for theatrical devices and a well ventilated and comfortable auditorium.
Duration of Kannada Plays
The Stage had remained the play-ground of Gods, Kings and Queens even in the first quarter of the present century; the characters talked and sang and sang and talked with only soliloquies and battles in between. They surely served the gallery and got from it claps and "once mores". The professional play was yet a moral preacher with long sermons. The performance usually went on for five hours at least. This condition which prevailed in 1928, had not improved even in the year 1935 when Kurukshetra of the "Gubbis" went on for six hours. Many a time the sleeping spectator had to be disturbed from his slumber for the final scene. Songs and soliloquies were specially devised to pad up the play, so that it could be drawn to the desired length. A series of attacks on the unnecessary length of the play gradually reduced it to about four hours by 1940, and brought out a better unity of impression in it.