Rangayana’s legacy in danger as senior artistes retire
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Rangayana’s legacy in danger as senior artistes retire

June 16, 2024

35-year-old theatre repertory has only three senior artistes; no action on contractual appointment of new faces

Mysore/Mysuru: Rangayana, the pride of Mysuru, has enriched the world of theatre for the past three-and-a-half decades with numerous acclaimed plays embraced by diverse audiences.

Founded in 1989 with 24 artistes under its first Director B.V. Karanth, this theatre repertory has become a cornerstone of Mysuru. However, it now faces the risk of fading into history, as almost all its original artistes have retired. Despite proposals to appoint artistes to Rangayana on a three-year              contractual basis for stability, the Department of Kannada and Culture has taken no action.

Rangayana began with young artistes — Krishna Prasad, Mime Ramesh, Prashanth Hiremath, Mahadev, Krishna Kumar Narnakaje, Jagadeesh Manavarthe, Ramu, Ramnath, Santosh Kusanoor, Manjunath Belikere, Hulugappa Kattimani, Pramila Bengre, Saroja Hegde, Basavaraj Kodage, Mandya Ramesh, Arun Sagar, Pichahalli Srinivas, K.C. Raghunath (Rangayana Raghu), Suresh, Noor Ahmed Sheikh, Vinayaka Bhat, Shashikala, Geetha Montadka and Nandini — handpicked by B.V. Karanth.

First production ‘Kindarijogi’

They won hearts with their first production ‘Kindarijogi’ directed by Karanth. Since then, it has entertained theatre buffs to this date. However, those who have followed Rangayana from the beginning feel a void on stage, especially during weekend shows, as senior artistes are no longer showcasing their acting abilities.

It has been seven years since Mime Ramesh, the first senior artiste, retired in 2017. Since then, almost all core group members have retired, with only Shashikala, Geetha Montadka and Nandini continuing their service. The last of the male artistes, Ramnath, retired recently.

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Earlier, well-known Kannada Film Industry actors Rangayana Raghu, Mandya Ramesh and Arun Sagar left Rangayana for careers in film and television. Artistes Manjunath Belikere, Basavaraj Kodage and Suresh passed away while in service, leaving the repertory’s responsibilities to other actors.

Plays such as ‘Kusumabale’, ‘Maggadavaru’, ‘Kattale Belaku’, ‘Taledanda’, ‘Gandhi Vs Gandhi’, ‘Othello’, ‘Krishnegowdana Aane’, ‘Hamlet’, ‘O…Lear’, ‘Tughlaq’, ‘Malegalalli Madhumagalu’, ‘Shikari’, ‘Samskara’ and ‘Parva’ featured all the surviving actors.

Strength of core group

“Our core group was our strength. We never faced difficulties in executing our work since everyone worked together. Now, I feel lonely with almost all senior actors having retired. However, it is a process every organisation follows. There is a need for new talent to continue the legacy,” said K.R. Nandini, Senior Artiste, Rangayana.

Apart from the three female artistes, Martial Arts Instructor Anju Singh and staff members Rajesh, Mandya Manju and Mohan remain. With most senior artistes and technicians retired, the State Government is yet to formulate a solid plan to prevent Rangayana from becoming extinct.

Appointment of Directors pending

The current State Government, having completed a year in office, has yet to appoint Directors for the theatre repertory. Although the Ranga Samaja was formed before the Lok Sabha elections, its members couldn’t take charge due to the Model Code of Conduct, which was in effect until June 6.

Ranga Samaja member H.S. Suresh Babu stated that they had only recently received their appointment letters and the members are yet to meet to discuss the appointment of Directors to Rangayanas across the State.

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Contract appointments

Meanwhile, there have been continuous appeals to the Department of Kannada & Culture to appoint artistes to Rangayana on a three-year contractual basis to bring stability. However, the Department has yet to make a decision. “Karnataka is among the few States where theatre is still alive. Many artistes depend on theatre for their livelihood. The State Government and the Department of Kannada and Culture must safeguard theatre culture for future generations,” said H. Janardhan (Janni), former Director of Rangayana.

“The Government should appoint actors on a three-year contractual basis to revive Rangayana’s past glory, extending contracts if the artistes wish to stay and appoint new artistes. It is also important to appoint new creative Directors to bring fresh air into the theatre,” he added.

With abundant talent in the State, the Government should develop a plan to retain Rangayana’s legacy for future generations. A committee of senior artistes, technicians and artistes could deliberate on ideas to plan for the repertory’s future.

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