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Seventy actors and a nine-hour long-performance through the night will bring alive Malegalalli Madhumagalu on stage

Indrani Thakurata

It is amazing to see a novel written in the year 1967 being relevant today. And what is more marvellous, is that the play around this novel is coming back again and again on popular demand. Malegalalli Madhumagalu is a 1967 Kannada novel by popular author and poet, Kuvempu. The title “Malegalalli Madhumagalu” translates to “the bride in the mountains.”

Kuvempu discusses social & economic conditions that prevailed in the late 19th century Malenadu. The story revolves around several characters in the then prevailing feudal system Heggades / Gowdas (the landlords) and their slaves belonging to different castes, and the narrative travels over multiple locations with interlinking characters and their stories. “The story revolves around people belonging to various classes and castes and their emotions. It also deals with the abuse that people of lower castes often go through. We can relate to the play in today’s world because it is a relaity even now. I am excited to be part of this play,” says Akhil Bhaneswar, NSD, Bengaluru.

The novel is highly acclaimed and very popular among Kannada readers, and is often prescribed as one of the “must-reads” novels of Kannada language of the “must-reads” novels of Kannada language.

The fourth edition of the wildly popular Malegalalli Madhumagalu is back in Bengaluru from tomorrow till the 31st January 2018. Seventy performers from all the south Indian states including the students of the NSD Bengaluru Centre join hands to stage this 9-hour-long play through the night.

“The beauty, romance, and tragedies of Kuvempu’s magnum opus unfold over four massive open-air stages in the moonlight. Bring your family and friends to witness the magic that is Malegalalli Madhumagalu,” says C. Basavalingaiah Director NSD Bengaluru Centre. Adding to the same, Tilak from NSD says, “This story is relevant to our present life because we still see caste system and the atrocities against the dalits.”

Briefly about the Author

Kuppali Venkatappa Puttappa (29 December 1904 – 11 November 1994), popularly known by the pen name Kuvempu (ಕುವೆಂಪು), was a Kannada novelist, poet, playwright, critic and thinker. He is widely regarded as the greatest Kannada poet of the 20th century. He is the first among Kannada writers to be decorated with the prestigious Jnanpith Award.

For his contributions to Kannada literature, the Government of Karnataka decorated him with the honorific Rashtrakavi in 1958 and Karnataka Ratna in 1992. His epic narrative Sri Ramayana Darshanam, a modern rendering of the Indian Hindu epic Ramayana is regarded as the revival of the era of Mahakavya in contemporary form and charm. His writings and his contribution to “Universal Humanism” (in his own words, “Vishwa maanavataa Vaada”) gives him a unique place in modern Indian literature. He was conferred the Padma Vibhushan by Government of India in 1988. He penned the Karnataka State anthem Jaya Bharata Jananiya Tanujate.

Madhumagalu, the play

The seeds for the play Madhumagalu were sown early in 2010. Renowned Kannada playwright Dr. K Y Narayanaswamy took upon himself the massive task of adapting Kuvempu’s 1967 epic to the stage. The primary challenge was to create uniform narratives from Kuvempu’s highly non-linear narrative style. The adaptation effort resulted in a 9-hour-long play with 36 songs.

Noted theatre director and NSD alumnus C. Basavalingaiah staged the first edition of the play with Rangayana, Mysore, in April-May 2010. The play reflected the Bayalata style, and four stages (including a village complete with a lake) formed the backdrop to Kuvempu’s intricate multi-layered story. The play became immensely popular, registering a viewership of 15000 audience members during the first edition. The play has since been considered a landmark in Indian theatre.

The second edition brought to Kalagrama in the lush green environs of the Bangalore University campus in 2013. The locales and the canvas to the play became even more impressive, and the crowds poured in to watch the shows despite the cold and the rain. The second edition saw 20,000 audience members coming to watch the performances. The play was the talk of the town in social media platforms.

Playwright

Kuppur Yalappa Narayanaswamy, also known as KYN, is a popular Kannada poet, scholar, critic, and playwright. He is currently a Kannada professor in the Government Arts College, Bangalore. He is the author of many popular Kannada plays including Kalavu, Anabhigna Shakuntala, Chakraratna, Huliseere, and Vinura Vema. He has also translated Kuvempu’s Shudra Tapaswi into Telugu. He is credited with adapting Kuvempu’s magnum opus Malegalalli Madhumagalu into a 9-hour play. He has also written the screenplay for the films Kalavu and Suryakaanti.

He won the Karnataka Sahitya Akademi Award for his play Pampabharatha, which is considered a milestone in modern Kannada theatre. He is considered to be an influential writer and thinker. His plays are representative of Kannada theatre’s search for new frontiers in experimental theatre.


Director

Mr. Basavalingaiah studied direction at NSD and directed some landmark plays in Kannada, including Malegalalli Madhumagalu a nine-hour-long theatrical adaptation of a classic by Kuvempu.

Mr. Basavalingiah has previously served as the director of Rangayana and worked with the Regional Research Centre of NSD, Bangalore. He is currently the first director of the Bangalore Center of National School of Drama (NSD).

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