Remembering Karody Gundu Rao

Remembering Karody Gundu Rao

Submitted by alvin on Sat, 2016-08-13 10:59 Visha Kanya-Part III   Starting and nurturing a Kannada theatre group even inside Karnataka is not an easy job. And if a person is thinking of setting up a Kannada theatre group outside the state, just because the person is passionate about art and deeply cares for his language, the idea sounds crazy. But not for Karody Gundu Rao, who with his passion, dedication, and energy made an almost impossible task into a success story. Here is the story of Hyderabad’s Kannada theatre group ‘Kannada Natya Ranga’ and its founder Karody Gundu Rao. Born in Kuthupady, Udupi, Karody Gundu Rao inherited the talent and taste his father, Karody Narasingha Rao, and his whole family shared for the performing arts. His ancestral house in Kuthupady was an abode for all kinds of art forms including Yakshagana, drama and music. With such an artistic background it is no wonder that Gundu Rao wrote his first play ‘Draupadi Swayamvara’ at the age of twelve. The very next year he scripted ‘Muppina Maduve’ and went on to write many more. Karody Gundu Rao eventually landed in Hyderabad with his family in 1950. Hoysala veera Erayanga  English drama Karody Gundu Rao  He was a busy man with a successful career as a lecturer and a happy family of four children in Hyderabad. But the artist within him was starving and directing English dramas in his school didn’t satisfy his artistic hunger. So, the idea of forming an amateur Kannada cultural group took shape. Initially, it started as a small informal group which was more into music and dance. Meanwhile, an initiative to help the newly built Raghavendra Swamy Mutt of Hyderabad with some financial aid emerged. The seed for Kannada Natya Ranga was sown. The intention was to perform a ticketed play and donate the collected amount to the mutt. After 3 months of rigorous rehearsals, and by overcoming many difficulties, Parvathavani’s ‘Bahadur Ganda’ was staged before a packed house in Hyderabad’s Ravindra Bharathi on July 1968. Telugu cine star Akkineni Nageshwara Rao inaugurated the Kannada Natya Ranga and the first play was a grand success. And the rest is history. Kannada Natya Ranga provided a much-needed Kannada cultural environment for lakhs of Hyderabad Kannadigas. Karody Gundu Rao went on to direct almost 50 plays, and he himself wrote many plays. Kannada Natya Ranga didn’t restrict itself to twin cities. It performed in many cities including Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Mysuru and grew into a full-fledged theatre group. Karody Gundu Rao   But this great journey had many hiccups. When finding audience for Kannada plays in Hyderabad itself is a difficult task, imagine the effort required in finding artists for Kannada plays in Telugu land. The Kannadigas who were a few generations old in the Nizam’s city spoke Kannada but very few could read Kannada. For many plays, Gundu Rao ended up training Telugu artists and made them learn Kannada dialogues by writing them in Telugu. It was equally difficult to find female artists. The first performance of “Visha Kanye” had a male artist as its leading lady who had experience of playing ‘stree vesaha’ in Yakshagana. Karody Gundu Rao’s creative mind constantly experimented with music, costumes, dance and stage setting. He trained more than 200 Kannada artists in Hyderabad. Karody Gundu Rao’s efforts to build an auditorium in Hyderabad, completely dedicated to Kannada related events, hasn’t materialised yet. He fought with both Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh governments for this cause. So he always said that non-resident Kannadigas had two step-mothers.  Karody Gundu Rao’s enthusiasm had no boundaries. For 42 long years, till his last breath, he was actively involved in all theatre activities of Kannada Natya Ranga. After his demise in 2010, Kannada Natya Ranga couldn’t manage to produce its own plays, but continues to host many Kannada cultural activities in the twin cities. Kannada Natya Ranga till now has presented more than 300 cultural programmes relating to music, dance, dance-drama, ballets and plays by outside troupes. “We definitely want to continue the legacy of Karody Gundu Rao and produce new plays. But our main challenge is to get young artists required for these plays. Kannada Natya Ranga has many active members, but the young generation of Hydearabad Kannadigas should show more interest in their language and culture. Our efforts are on in this regard and we are planning a talent hunt for young artists.” says Karody Niranajan Rao, son of Karody Gundu Rao.  Kannada Natya Ranga will be celebrating its golden jubilee in couple of years. Hopefully, the association will be infused with fresh energy during the landmark moment. After all, we shouldn’t forget that Kannada is the third most spoken language in Hyderabad after Telugu and Urdu.