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Kannada shoving other languages offstage

By Monika Shukla

A theater performance in Delhi

Photo courtesy of Ajay Thakur

Love to watch English and Hindi theater plays? Bangalore is certainly not the place for you. With growing number of Kannada plays in the city, there is little room for plays in other languages.

Mumbai is the entertainment capital of India, which has allowed the theater industry there the advantage of the best of talent and audiences. Delhi has a strong theater culture, with children ingrained in the theatrical tradition at school and university, which helps when it comes to forming theater companies, and Delhi audiences are very animated. The Bangalore theater scene is, in contrast, a largely self-made one.

Most theater performances in Bangalore are in Kannada. Few are in English, and artists hardly perform in Hindi.

According to Gagan, a theater artist, many groups take up this art form for commercial purposes to earn money, but very few take it up passionately. The audience, meanwhile, has a very limited taste; they usually want to watch comedy plays for entertainment, which leaves theater with little scope. Limited audiences is one of the reasons why theater in Bangalore is anemic.

“Rangashankara Theater features only English plays on weekends, which helps in rejuvenating the art in language other than Kannada,” Gagan said.

“Theater should not be biased—it should be promoted in every language to gain popularity,” he said. “I have hardly seen plays in Hindi in the city.”

Bangalore has a heterogeneous mix of people, so there is space for all languages and expressions.

Theater, today, has to compete with many instant-gratification avenues. To make theater a viable avenue and ensure that it thrives and grows, it is important to invest in it. The private sector, IT or otherwise, should invest in theater.

Piyush Agarwal, administrator at Tahatto theater group, said the theater fraternity should also look out for collaborations and investments and it should be responsible and accountable for them.

“If Kannada theater commands better and larger audiences, it is just because their content is hitting home and nothing else,” Agarwal said.



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