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Two plays and a Bermuda clad Swami

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Continuing the good work of Malladihalli Raghavendra Swamy, the Tiruka Ranga troupe will present two Kannada playsHoovi and Mriga Mattu Sundari

Of all the swamijis I have met, (and I have met a lot) Malladihalli Raghavendra Swamy stands out because of his unconventional ways, one of them being not wearing saffron. He wore white and most of the time was seen in Bermuda-like shorts because it was convenient to work in. He had organised a literary festival in Malladihalli about 30 years ago and when the writers arrived there, he was busy sweeping the ground with other workers.
He founded the Anatha Sevashrama Trust at Malladihalli and revolutionised rural education. He taught yoga to more than 4.5 million people all over the world, one of them being Sadguru Jaggi Vasudeva of Isha Foundation. He wrote several books not only on Ayurveda, health, yoga but also essays, plays and novels. He was of the firm belief that “yoga is not for exhibition but for sound health of body and mind.” He called himself Tiruka (beggar) and when awards were conferred on him he politely refused, preferring voluntary donations from people who believed in his projects. He created opportunities for the rural underprivileged to engage in cultural activities.
Today Raghavendra Patil, principal and administrator of Anatha Sevashrama and founder secretary of Tiruka Ranga Cultural Forum (2003), is quietly continuing swamiji’s work. A prominent Sahitya Academy award winning short fiction writer himself, Patil invites eminent directors every year to conduct theatre workshops for the students of Anatha Sevashrama and the resulting play is staged at the annual festival. Villagers around Malladihalli come in thousands; last year more than 6,000 came to watch the play. It has become an annual pilgrimage for them.
“Participating in the workshop makes a significant difference in the personality of the students. Their attitude, body language and self confidence improves to such an extent, it is like being touched by a magic wand. The qualitative shift in their perspective of life is something I look forward to every year. Several students from here have made it big in the theatre world — Parashurama Ghatti to name one,” says Raghavendra Patil.
The Tiruka Ranga has staged more than 30 plays till now at Rangayana in Mysore, Hubli, Bellary, Belgaum and other places too. The Ashram started a new music centre called Sri Surdasji Sangeeth Vidyalaya. The two grand children of Pandit Siddarama Jambaldinni, Vidvan Hanumantharaya Kotnekal and Vidvan Amaresh Kotnekal, are teaching here and provide music to all the
plays. Musician Kashi Bai, a staffer at the Sevashram, provides lilting melodies for the play. Maunesh Badiger and Manjunath Badiger are the directors of the plays and Shwetha has taken care of stage craft and choreography.
The troupe is performing in Bangalore on April 16 at Ravindra Kalakshetra. They are staging two plays — Hoovi is written by wellknown poet and playwright H S Venkatesh Murthy. Based on a folktale, it portrays Hoovi, a girl who becomes a flowering tree when watered. Honne Gowda, a village youth falls in love with her and marries her. His younger sister Belli is jealous and when Hoovi becomes a flowering tree, cuts off her branches and as a result Hoovi cannot flower again. The play is a comment on the assault on nature by man.
The second play Mriga mattu Sundari is an adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, by Gajanaja Sharma. Both the plays will be performed by the students of Anatha Sevashrama PU College and Sri Ranghavendra Gurukula Vidyapeetha. However they are no less in terms of production when compared to other mature theatre groups. They have come a long way and they deserve applause.


A still from Kannada play Hoovi, which portrays man’s assault on the environment

Bangalore Mirror 16-04-2011, Page 36