Prakash Belawadi has carved a niche in the field of theatre. Being a most seasoned drama director, even he too is developing cold feet till the first show of ‘Parva’ is staged at Kalamandira. Taking a break from the busy rehearsal, he spoke to Star of Mysore on his preparations and experience of bringing Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa’s novel into theatrical form. Excerpts.
By Shyam Sundar Vattam
SOM: Since how long have you been associated with Mysuru Rangayana?
Prakash Belawadi: I came here for a serious project in 1990 because there was a Greek American who had come here to do a joint production with Rangayana. And I was called to make a shooting script for it. Not change the dialogue but actually make a shooting script with the use of video of this play and edit it. So I came here, watched 10-12 rehearsals and made notes. For the first time, we set up five cameras at Vanaranga. As we did not have the sophisticated cameras in Bengaluru, we got it from Mumbai and Chennai. On this basis, Rangayana was invited to perform at La MaMa Theatre in USA.
SOM: How difficult was theatrical form of ‘Parva’? How did you manage?
Belawadi: I don’t have literature background as I come from theatre. I have already read Kamala Subramaniam’s work. Nobody knows that she is T.P. Kailasam’s daughter. She has written both ‘Mahabharata’ and ‘Ramayana’ in English. I have read both of it. I have read Rajagopalachari’s book, an authentic work on ‘Mahabharata.’ I have read a Oriya writer’s book on Draupadi. I have done a performance on importance of being Draupadi. It is Naga version of ‘Mahabharata.’ I have read Gurcharan Das’ novel on the problem of being good. I have also read critical literature around ‘Mahabharata.’ I have approached this epic many times and well-versed with it. So this was easier than reading afresh. That helped me a lot.
SOM: What was your first reaction when you were chosen to direct ‘Parva’?
Belawadi: I was terrified about Dr. Bhyrappa. I did not know how to approach him because he is such a great littérateur and how I could have replied if he asked questions since I am not a literature student. I met him 6-7 years ago for the first time and I told him that I wanted to direct ‘Parva’ as I had done something with Tagore’s works. I said I will do. Then Dr. Bhyrappa said how will you do it? Just then ‘Malegalalli Madumagalu’ was done? Will you do overnight? or through episodes? See, you cannot make Karna or Kunti as Naxalite. Then I felt I lost courage. I gave it up. One-and-a-half years ago, they again called me and asked will you do a play. I came here and discussed. Before I could decide, the Director of Rangayana was changed and a new person had taken charge. Cariappa called me and wanted to do a play.
He said nobody has tried Bhyrappa’s novels. I wanted to do play on ‘Sartha’ novel. Cariappa first agreed later, he said let us do ‘Parva.’ And then I took the text, wrote the whole play which took about 3 months. It will be eight hours of performance, so I told it’s too long and let us do four or five episodes. Two hours every day. Then we thought how can we do it for ten hours if we take this drama to other places. I was not for night performance as it was too grim a play we will have to do it as a day play. Then we arrived it as a doing episodic thing during week, three episodes of two-and-a-half-hour each. Then I went and gave that text to Dr. Bhyrappa along with writer Hanur Krishnamurthy and Cariappa. He gave a patient hearing and then he said how will you manage it with COVID. How will you finance it? Cariappa said he will do it. Then Dr. Bhyrappa asked how will I manage it, politically? I told him not politically but dharmically.
SOM: How about selection of characters in the play?
Belawadi: Every character is given a choice. At crucial moment they decide wrongly. I don’t think it is obvious but you will make it as play progresses. It is nothing about kings and princesses but of human beings. I have written the script but I cannot say that I have done hunky-dory. It is too big. We have worked very hard. Now what I am doing is polishing. We hope it will communicate to people.
SOM: What’s the difference between your play and tele-serial ‘Mahabharata’?
Belawadi: Let me give an example. In ‘Parva,’ when Draupadi is being disrobed, Krishna does not come because he was busy in a war to save his Dwaraka. His priority is his people. He does not come here. Krishna finishes the war and comes late. By then this had already happened. But in this play, Draupadi will be telling this story to her grown up children when they ask what is true dharma. I use this story to tell that she is disrobed and Krishna comes late. She tells her children that their five fathers never came to her help but her friend (Krishna) will definitely come. That was the power of Krishna and not a miracle.
SOM: Is it being experimented for the first time in the country?
Belawadi: It is hard to tell. Many people may have attempted many different things. Peter Brook did ‘Ramayana’ overnight and we are doing ‘Parva.’ We are not changing what Dr. Bhyrappa has written or we are not interpreting his book. But one major change is that 637-page novel has been brought down to 200-page play. What is included is a story of ‘Parva’ based on the story of ‘Mahabharata.’
SOM: Are you ready to take up other projects like ‘Parva’?
Belawadi: I have done a lot of adaptation of novels. I have done ‘Avasthe’ of Prof. U.R. Ananthamurthy and three separate productions for Kannada and I have done an English production of it also. I am addicted to extracting dramatic materials from novels and it will interest me a lot. If somebody calls me to do works like that, I will do. At this moment, I cannot think any other writer like Dr. Bhyrappa. If I win this, it will change my life and I will dedicate myself to more projects like this.
SOM: I heard Dr. Bhyrappa has purchased ticket to see the first show of his drama? Will you be inside the auditorium?
Belawadi: I will be walking outside Kalamandira till the first show is over. I am excited as well as tensed how my direction will be received by the great author. I have worked hard, done justice to his novel. I hope he will like it.