Shift From Mythological to Social Theme
There came a point when Kannada theatre stage theatre overflowed with Gods and Goddesses and kings and queens. And as a result, it was time to look beyond. There was a growing unrest towards the crowding of mythological plays where the heroes of the epics performed the same old tricks over again. Music used to run riot and the stagy intonation that missed the suppleness and changing rhythms of the speech. The cry went up for the "intellectual play" in preference to the "physical performance" of mythological ones. It was evidently a demand of the intellingentsia, but it was a demand all the same, the outcome of a new age influenced by western education, patriotic movement in the country and the challenge of a growing amateur stage. The demand had to be met by the professional stage for the sake of survival. It was not to be a question of complete replacement of the mythological and historical themes but one of finding place for something different, something more intimate and something earthly on the stage.
Use of Social Theme by Theatre Troupes
The first professional troupe that specialised in popularising plays built on social themes was the famed Halgeri Company with its versatile proprietor cum actors Dodda Jettappa and Chikka Jettappa. Stree, B. A, Pathani Pasha, Chalti Duniya and Black Market were among its popular plays. They infused a spirit of patriotism and aimed at the eradication of social evils and artificialities. The Mitra Mandali of K. Hirannayya staged long runs of social plays like Devadasi and Mahmal Topi that pleaded for prohibition and emancipation of women. Sadasivarao Garud's performances of Paschattapa (Vishama Vivaha) and Satya Sankalpa, though in historical settings, were essentially social in spirit and implications. Even the Gubbi Company which had its mainstay in mythological themes soon took up social plays like Nisha Mahitne, Sahukar, Kalachakra and Addadari, all throwing light on the social and political oddities and artificialities from the angle of humour. Rayara Sose of the Amba Prasadita Nataka Mandali remained very popular on the professional stage. Samsara Nauka staged by Mahamed Peer proved that professional troupes could well prosper with social plays. Recently, though written on a contemporary episode of topical interest, Hunsur Krishnamurthi's Dharma Ratnakara, a biting parody replete with irony and humour, held the professional stage in Mysore and drew crowded houses. Simha's Abba Hudagi, a parody on the manners of' educated ' girls was also staged with great success in Mysore.
Awareness Created by Plays With Social Themes
The social theme which is intimately connected with the people, created new values and brought about a revolution both in the writing for the stage and methods of play presentation. It set at naught the accepted belief that the mythological play alone could hold the professional stage; it tempered down the stage language towards naturalness; it rationalised the manner of acting; it replaced the stage music with humour; it discarded the fabulous settings, scenery and other spectacular elements, and finally, it catered more to the mind than to the eye. In this sense, the social play came to be regarded as more intellectual in nature and more rational in presentation than the mythological and historical plays. The social theme brought about a change in the outlook of the writer, the actor and also the spectator. Very gradually, the stiffness of the stage-language began to make way for informality. Essentially, after the second decade of the present century, the professional stage came a step closer to society by dealing with its problems and evils. In such a role, it came to be regarded first as the educator of the society and then its entertainer.