Girish Karnad’s examination of the English-vernacular divide has echoes off the stage...
Attending that talk provided the spark that made Karnad write Odakalu Bimba, a Kannada play about a Kannada writer whose debut novel in English is a big international success. After its Kannada and Hindi versions (Bikhre Bimb) had successful runs, Karnad decided to translate the play in English, calling it Broken Images. Directed by theatre veteran Alyque Padamsee, the single-character play features Shabana Azmi as the Hindi-language writer Manjula Sharma, whose sudden success prompts her to introspect about her language and identity.
“Writing plays is like having children,” Karnad says. “You can’t predict what will become of them. They develop their own fate lines.” It is a familiar enough observation, backed in this instance by over 40 years of playwriting experience. Karnad cites the example of his play Naga-Mandala, which he wrote for a college production. Based on a folk tale about a woman who “marries” a snake, it has, much to his surprise, become his most performed play.
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