Ratnan Prapancha is an attempt to portray the life of Kannada poet G.P.Rajaratnam (GPR) on stage by Kriyative Theatre. The lead actors, Laxmi Chandrashekar and Sundar, have been theatre artists for long and are household names in Karnataka because of their roles in several successful Kannada serials.
The first thing that caught my eye when I entered Ranga Shankara was the assortment of musical instruments on stage. I had read that songs would be part of the show and had imagined that it would be done in the usual way of playing songs in background. Seeing the instruments right there built a pleasant anticipation of a concert-cum-play. Having grown up listening to and singing GPR’s popular songs like Naayi Mari, Bannada tagadina tuttoori, Bhoomin tabbid mod iddange among others, I was glad to be a part of this musical tribute to the legendary poet.
Pancham Halebandi initiated the day’s proceedings by singing a popular G.P. Rajarathnam poem. He managed to wipe out my expectations of a fitting musical tribute by breaking up certain words and rushing through/repeating some lines/words. With all due respect to the “experimentation”, I still prefer Mysore Ananthswamy and Kalinga Rao versions of these verses.
Laxmi Chandrashekar began our journey into the poet’s life by briefly narrating the family background, and led us to the story of how Rajayyangar became G.P. Rajarathnam. This was enacted by Sundar, Sandhya, Sandeep, and Chandrakeerthi. While the act managed to have us in splits, it failed to convince me that this was really the reason for change. Did the poet get his new name just because he was using the word “ratnagalu” frequently?
Later, the incident from GPR’s life with his cancer-ridden first wife was showcased well by the lead pair. Sundar told us that GPR tried to commit suicide after his wife’s death but was saved by a well-wisher. GPR married again soon after this.
Moving on, the audience were shown the reasons behind drunkards being the central subject of GPR’s works, the composition of ubiquitous Bannada tagadina tuttoori (The child artists for this act were grossly over-aged) and his habit of publishing and selling his works on his own.
The “life history” part ended with an incident where GPR makes fun of his own death. The lead actors excelled throughout with good support from other artists, especially Ramakrishna Kannarpadi who donned various roles. The humor-laced dialogues combined with actors’ comic timing had the audience bursting out in laughter some times. The songs were added at appropriate junctures and supplemented the story.
After this, Pancham was back with his songs. I had not been able to relate to the first song because I was not familiar with the tune or the lyrics. However, as if to compensate for all the disappointment he had caused in me so far, he came up with soulful rendering of next (and last) song, one of my personal favourites, Neen nan hattig belkang idde.
Pancham’s songs was followed by the last performance of the day – GPR’s hilarious play Kambliseve. In this short act, Ramakrishna Kannarpadi in the role of a shrewd servant completely stole the show from the lead actors. I hope to see more of him.
Overall, it was an interesting choice of anecdotes and songs. I would have preferred a slightly better presentation, but it wasn’t a bad watch.