Mythological Themes in Kannada Theatre
Epics, it was seen, had the capacity to hold the interest of the audience, because of its high drama content - filled with love, hate, revenge and battle. In the later part of 19th century, the theme was not considered appropriate if it dealt with a general day to day problem, 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 with the requirements. So theatre started to give a prominent feel of force and power just like the way Yakshagana used to provide for the folk theatre in Karnataka.
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), Narayanrao Huilgol, Srinivasakavi, Garud Sadashivarao and Kandagal Hanamantharao in North Karnatak and Bellave Narahari Shastri, Nanjangud Srikanta Sastri and B. Puttaswamiah in Mysore.
Historical Themes in Kannada Theatre
For about three decades professional stages were greatly dependent on Puranic themes. But with the partition of Bengali in 1905, there was a mass awakening in the country, and Karnataka suddenly woke up it's the glorious history of India. Playwrights started to compose plays and dramas based on historical facts and themes. To start with writers dwelled on a concept of both Pauranic and Historical elements. The singleness of a lofty moral purpose championed by the Saint and his determination to destroy the evil and Maya in order to attain the sublime happiness, and then, an undercurrent of Bhakti, made the plays like Sant Tukaram, Tulsidas and Ramadas highly popular. During 1920s plays were made on historical characters who sacrificed their lives for the sake of country. The themes on history gradually increased the entertainment value of a play. This finally led to complete replacement of mythological plays, which was the principle occupant of theatre for quite some time. Historical themes laid more emphasis on naturalism in acting and good dialogue and dramatic actions instead of stage music.
Social Themes in Kannada Theatre
With time, and exposure to western theatre and other regional theatres of India, Kannada theatre also dealt with social issues. Themes related to society also played a crucial role in Kannada theatre. With the translation of Mrcchakatika, the social theme entered Kanna theatre in the last decade of 19th century. Imaginative playwrights like Kerur Vasudevacharya, Garud Sadashivarao, Irani Shantappa, N, K. Huilgol, Hanumantharao Kandgal, G. G. Hegde and others in northern Karnataka and M. L. Srikantagowda, G. V. Ramaswami Iyengar, K. Hirannayya, Hunsur Krishnamurthi in Mysore wrote plays on social themes and they contained considerable dramatic element as well. Theatre was also used as a medium to address social issues like unequal marriage, drinking, tyranny of social customs, dangers of blind faith, unsound education and the like. Inclusion of social themes in Kannada theatre brought about a revolution and helped create new values. Methods of acting, writing and presentation of plays also changed.
Themes in Kannada theatre helps the audience to relate easily. The demand for each of the themes have increased and decreased with time. Not all plays with these themes have been accepted by the audience. People have gone and watched the plays that had the capacity to touch lives, ignite young minds and had a story to tell.