Curtains on Rangayana for now
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Curtains on Rangayana for now

August 23, 2023

Once a hustle and bustle of theatre related activities, the State’s first theatre repertory in Mysuru looks lifeless, with the delay in appointment of new Director

By Bapu Lingaraj Urs

Rangayana, the hub of theatre activities in the city, seems eclipsed, worry the theatre lovers. The place that was earlier a hustle-bustle of activities, with a packed schedule, now wears a deserted look. The delay in the appointment of a new Director to the State’s first theatre repertory is to be blamed for the sorry state of affairs, with the Government in a slumber. More than that, what pricks hard is the repertory caught between Left and Right leaning theatre persons, which also acts as a deterrent to its growth.

All these developments doesn’t augur well, with less than two months left for Nada Habba Mysuru Dasara to start on Oct. 15, during which Navaratri Rangotsava (Navaratri Theatre Festival) organised at Rangayana is also one of the prime attractions.

Rangayana saw its birth in the year 1989, in the lap of nature contiguous with Kukkarahalli Lake, from where poet laureate Rashtrakavi Kuvempu derived inspiration for his literary works. Doyen of theatre B.V. Karanth was the Founder-Director of the repertory, who introduced theatre and its significance to new generation. Moreover, it withstood the influence of film and several other mediums of new age entertainment, becoming a household name.  At a time when theatre was fading into oblivion, Rangayana ushered a new lease of life to the stage.

Rangayana experimented with new and innovative concepts daily, with its fame reaching national and international level, as the artistes of the repertory were staging plays at USA, England, France and several  other countries.

Not just professional theatre, even amateur theatre got a new lease of life with the advent of Rangayana. Several prominent plays helmed by B.V. Karanth were also staged, followed by theatre camps, that gradually cemented the position of the repertory.

Even the successors of Karanth, namely C. Basavalingaiah, Prasanna, Chidambara Rao Jambe, B. Jayashree, Sumathi, B.V. Rajaram, Janardhan (Janni) and Addanda C. Cariappa, followed in his footsteps, contributing to the growth of the repertory in their own way.

Ranga Samaja, the statutory body of Rangayana, picks the Director for the repertory after screening the names of prospective candidates. The Samaja comprises theatre experts and writers which plays a key role in this regard, by selecting the candidate irrespective of district, from Chamarajanagar to Bidar, having a ‘heart for art’ with creative mindset being the qualification.  The name of Director-designate is finalised and recommended to the Government, following which the Kannada and Culture Minister will hold a Secretary-level meeting to accept or turn down the name, after weighing in on pros and cons.

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However, in the recent years, there has been an inordinate delay on the part of the Government in the appointment of Rangayana Director. It takes several months to pick a suitable successor once the term of the incumbent is completed, which aptly describes the present situation, as Addanda C. Cariappa resigned as the Director after the new Government was formed in the State, but there is no hint of a successor yet. During the period many theatre related activities have come to a standstill.

In the absence of a full-time Director, the Kannada and Culture Minister holds the key by virtue of being in power, but the daily activities will be monitored by the Deputy Director of Rangayana Mysuru. Any decision should be validated by the Minister in Bengaluru and if the Minister is not available due to political engagements, the staff from Mysuru have to return empty handed. Nothing will move without the Minister’s stamp of approval and hence curtains have fallen on most of the theatre activities in Rangayana for now.

Barely a play or two is being staged at the repertory for now, but lacks the charm it exudes when the Director is in office. Being an autonomous body, the Rangayana Director enjoys carte-blanche to experiment with innovative concepts, but the Officers lack such a free hand as they have to work under the limitations of the Government.  The Officers are restricted to discharge administrative duties, with no impactful activities. Needless to say again, all these has snatched the sheen of the repertory that was a buzz of activity earlier.

When Rangayana was established in 1989, it had 27 theatre artistes on roll bound by rules and regulations of the Government. As the years passed, some among them quit, while some others have retired from service, with what remains is a skeletal staff of seven artistes. To fill the gap, amateur artistes are being summoned to keep the activities afloat.  However, like most of the fields, religion has crept into the repertory too, with theatre lovers split between Left and Right ideologies. It has created a rift, with each propagating their own views, with no sight of consensus among them, thus leaving the stage empty for a mute spectator to watch.

Even the plays are selected suiting the tastes of separate ideologies, forcing the theatre lovers who were devoid of any influence of caste and creed to stay away from the repertory, maintaining equal distance from both Leftists and Rightists.

Worse is being witnessed, as some plays are staged amid heavy Police cover at the repertory, with no scope for any misstep. This calls for a serious introspection on the part of theatre lovers caught in the trap of Left and Right.

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The Government should bring in major reforms and tread cautiously while picking the Director, who should be neither a Leftist nor a Rightist. Most importantly, the repertory should regain its original charm by recruiting permanent artistes. If not, Rangayana will lose its space as a serious theatre, feel many  theatre buffs.

Even though Rangayana Director’s Office is vacant, theatre activities haven’t stopped. Several plays are staged by Rangayana artistes along with amateur artistes. As per the action plan of the Government, artistic and administrative activities are going on at the repertory. Though it is three months since the Director’s chair is empty, all the activities are going on smoothly. —Nirmala Mathapati, Deputy Director, Rangayana Mysuru

Chief Minister Siddharamaiah should name the Rangayana Director, the related process of which is happening at the Government level. Even without a Director, the activities at Rangayana haven’t come to a nought. I have been clearing the files on priority without any delay when it comes to administrative matters of Rangayana. I will be conducting a progress review meeting of Kananda  and Culture Department including those related to Rangayana in Mysuru on Aug. 30. —Shivaraj Tangadagi, Kannada and Culture Minister

Rangayana Officers are happy that no new Director is appointed to the repertory. They will be more happy, if the Office (of Director) continues to remain vacant for one more year. When I took over as the Director, Rangayana had Rs. 20 lakh corpus which touched Rs. 4.5 crore generated from various sources including staging of plays, at the time of demitting the office. When this is the situation, the Officers will discharge duty without any qualms over the non-appointment of Director to the repertory. —Addanda C. Cariappa, Immediate Past Director, Rangayana Mysuru

Theatre activities have come to a standstill due to the non-appointment of Director to Rangayana. In the absence of Director, Officers have to work in a constricted manner to meet administrative requirements. But the genuine activities have taken a hit. Rangayana has to plan daily activities with a new dimension. It is possible only by those Directors who are artistes by profession, with ability to transform their vision into a reality, with a touch of creativity. However, it is not possible by Officers which calls for the appointment of a full-time Director to the repertory. For this reason, it is not right on the part of the Government to keep the Office of Rangayana Director vacant for a longer time. Rangayana builds relations and it was on the edifice of this principle that the repertory was also founded. It is also incorrect to argue on the lines of Left and Right. —Janardhan (Janni), former Director of Rangayana Mysuru


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