Girish Karnad says that, though the English writers and the thought of writing in English influenced him, it was unknowingly that he became a playwright and started writing in Kannada. 'Yakshagana', the traditional folk theatre of Karnataka, influenced him. Karnad's plays, Yayathi, Hayavadana, Tughlag, and Nagamandala certainly reveal this influence. Two Folktales and a Play
The play Naga Mandala is based on two folk-tales of Kannada. It was first staged at the University of Chicago. Karnad says: The energy for the folk-theatre comes from the fact that although it seems to uphold traditional values, it also has the means of questioning these values. The various conventions- the chorus, the music, the seemingly unrelated comic interludes, the mixing of human and non human worlds permit a simultaneous presentation of alternative points of view. Bed Time Stories For Living in Day Time!
Old women in the family usually narrate the folktales, either when the children are being fed in the evenings or when they are put to bed in the night. Though they are narrated to children, stories serve as a parallel system of communication among the women in the family. A Two Acts Play with a Prologue
The play Nagamandala is divided into prologue and two acts.
The Problem Starts With the Audience!
In the prologue, we find a ruined temple with a broken idol. A man comes to the temple and says that he was a playwright earlier, who with his plays had made many audiences to sleep. They cursed him to death! A mendicant had advised him that if he could keep awake at least one whole night he would not die. That day was the last day of the month, and he kept himself awake in order to overcome the curse of death. He then swore to himself that if he could survive that night without sleep, he would have nothing more to do with story writing. After sometime, he heard some voices and then saw some flames. Flames With Speaking Tongues
Karnad says that the writer had heard that in some remote villages, the flames had the ability to speak. These flames talk to each other with female voices. Flame 1 says that her master was a miser and hence had put the lights off early and due to this she could come to the temple early. Flame 2 says that she came from a family, whose master was a 'lustful man'. He needed the light to feast on his wife's body. Flame 3 says that, hereafter she could come early because her master and wife were free now to enjoy worldly pleasures. The master's mother had died and now both of them were free to enjoy. All these flames are not mere flames, but they represent the society. The play deals with the loose morals that are being practiced in society. Further, humans in the present day do not give any importance to religious values. A Different Story to Tell
Flame 4 has a different story to tell. The lady in her house was doubtful about her husband and she had a story and a song inside her mouth, which she kept for herself. She did not reveal it to anybody. One day, while she was snoring, the story and the song jumped out of her mouth. This story became a lady and the song took the form of a saree. When the woman woke up, she saw a young lady, coming outside her husband's room. It is reported that these were some hallucinations in the mind of the woman. This story and song tell a new story. Breaking Vows
The writer-character, in spite of his vow not to indulge in any more story telling, promises that he would pass the story to others. The Story of Rani and Appanna
The story deals with the life of Rani and Appanna. They are not given any name in the beginning and hence they represent the whole humankind. Rani is so called because she is the queen of the long tresses, which, when tied into a knot, resembled a 'cobra.' Appanna and Rani are married, apparently Rani being a child bride. After gaining puberty, she is bought to her husband's house. Appanna is not a faithful husband. He spends his time with his...