Saturday, April 24, 2010

The play of languages

Girish Karnad’s examination of the English-vernacular divide has echoes off the stage...

Shashi Deshpande was giving a talk in Bangalore about being an English language writer in India and Girish Karnad was in the audience. “While listening to her, I began thinking that her father was the great Kannada writer Shriranga, though Shashi herself cannot speak or write in Kannada,” Karnad recalls over the phone from Bangalore. “Her (Deshpande’s) sister, however, can, and she is the one who translated her father’s work in English.”

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.

Full report here Mint

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