Sunday, January 19, 2014

THE TIME OF MY LIFE..XXIII..Encounter with Karnad



 When Srivatsa was posted in Bangalore, I acted in a Kannada Play for the MICO Fine Arts Club. This was my first big role as the heroine, I had to play the part of a girl who falls in love , marries the man, gets back to her parents house, disillusioned with her husband and is advised to make up with him, I loved doing it as it had a tremendous scope for histrionics. The play was staged at the Glass House in Lalbagh and in the first couple of rows sat the entire gang from Srivatsa’s family including his uncles and aunts!

Dr Rangachar(Late) his wife Vimala and Sharada and Umesh Rudra(Late) were well known names in theatre  circles in Bangalore. They were staging a sit com for a conference and they invited me to join them. I was to be the glamorous girl friend of the men from their past and the play was about them being caught by their wives while entertaining me.
But all along, there was this urge to act in a movie.  Kannada film industry was on the threshold of art cinema. Girish Karnad, B V Karant, Girish  Kasarvalli, were some of the pioneers. I passed the word around through my friend Tuppa Shanti who was establishing herself in art cinema, that I was willing to act. Girish Kasarvalli was looking for someone to do the lead role in his unconventional Ghatashradha and came home to assess my suitability. I did not make it. But never one to give up, I kept on the lookout. We were in Mysore to attend a niece’s wedding and I  heard Girish Karnad was staying in a hotel. Instead of writing what happened, let me reproduce my narrative which appeared in Stardust
"I met Girish Karnad in his room in Hotel Kaveri in Mysore, four years ago. Married and a mother of two grown- up children by then, I felt more confident about my reputation and my ability to safeguard it. With my new maturity I was also bitten by the acting bug and genuinely wanted to try my hand at it. Someone suggested that I should meet an influential gentlemen, a professor of English in the University of Mysore, who could probably help me go about things the right way. (I agreed because I didn’t want to end up as a bad joke.) The Professor heard me out and felt that I could perhaps venture into art films. Armed with the letter of introduction which he kindly gave me, I went to meet Karnad in his hotel. The receptionist called his room and Karnad promptly told her to send me up. A discreet knock on the door and it opened immediately. There stood Mr. Karnad with only a Towel round his midriff ! My middle – class upbringing protested at this blatant show of masculine splendour and I believe I blushed. Karnad looked confused!  He’d obviously expected a male visitor . He hastily apologised for his scanty attire and asked me to be seated while he had a shower and changed. I thought it more prudent to wait outside. (you never know if film journalists are lurking around some where in the corridors ! ) 

After a couple of minutes ,he asked me to come in .now he has more amused than confused. I sat near the door on a stool ,trying discreetly to keep the door open with my elbow .Karnad was engrossed in the letter I gave him ,or so I thought , until suddenly he asked me if the door was bothering me ! Feeling  foolish, I removed my elbow and let the door close with a bang. While he continued reading the letter , I looked around at the disheveled room. My homemaking instincts protested at the untidiness, but then, what else could one expect from a bachelor?  In a voice that wowed me, he asked me what kind of role l’d like to do . I reeled off my specifications….. nothing more than my face to be exposed, no male actor to come anywhere near me, and the character to be a clean and healthy one. He looked a little stunned at this and said that such restrictions would only fetch me the role of a dead woman and that too was doubtful, since men would be required to carry a dead  body !”