C. N. Ramachandran
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Bhargavi Narayan, Naanu, Bhargavi
Ankita Pustaka, 2012 pp. 415; price: Rs. 250/-
“Poignant Tale of a Gutsy Artist”
What is it that drives one to the stage and don the role of some one else
for a brief period, against all odds? Money? –there isn’t any in the Kannada theatre; fame? –very short-lived; inner urge to be somebody else? Such questions haunt one while going through the autobiographies of theatre-persons—like CGK , BVK, Prema Karanth, and others. The most recent one in this illustrious group is the autobiography of Bhargavi Narayan – the famous stage-film-TV artist.
Bhargavi, who has been associated with the stage for the last six decades, narrates the poignant tale of her life, in a simple and straight manner: born as the unwanted child of an unwanted child, she loses her father in her seventh year, and, leading a hand-to-mouth existence with her mother and brother, she hangs on to a low-paying clerical job until she opts for VRS. She enters the stage in her High-school days and continues to act in various plays for six decades; later enters the film-world and much later the small screen. She is bamboozled into marrying B. S. Narayanarao alias ‘make-up Nani,’ another illustrious theatre-person, who was the first Kannada theatre-person to get a British-Council scholarship, and who had the privilege of doing make-up for Rajanikant and Girsh Karnad (in “King Oedipus”).
This long story of suffering and accidents and difficult births and sad deaths could easily have become a sob-stuff story, making heavy demands on the readers’ patience but for two saving qualities: Bhargavi’s sense of humour and her stoic temperament. She narrates her story as objectively as possible free from self-pity and cynicism. She freely describes her own whimsicalities (like going to Mysore without telling anybody at home just to tick off her husband) as well as her husband’s (once, it seems, Nani got so angry that his son didn’t open the garage and asked him to get out of his house –which duly his son did). She has the awareness that many others in this world could be in a worse situation. It is this awareness that enables her to give moving pen-portraits of unfortunate women around her – her mother, hated by her own mother and widowed at an early age; her aunt Bhagirathi and Sheshamma (distant relative) who were widowed just three years after marriage and who spent the rest of their long life serving others.
More importantly, she believes that there is some unknowable power which has come to her aid in critical situations. Hence, the repetitive motif of her life-story : ‘ daivam maanusha rupena’ –God helps in the form of human beings. There are ample instances of such ‘divine intervention’ in her story: unexpected help from one V. S. Sastry (unrelated to them) when Bhargavi’s aunt, Suguna’s marriage was about to be a non-event; when Bhargavi wishes to revoke her application for VRS, the famous playwright Parvatavani happens to meet her and carries her letter to Delhi on the last day; and such. Hence, Bhargavi, despite her poverty and hardships, can boldly say: “ I have nothing to crib.”
Again, as Ananthnag points out rightly in his Foreword, this autobiography is also a history –a history of the Kannada theatre and amateur theatrical groups. We come to know of ‘Prabhat Kalavidaru,’ ‘Ravi Kalavidaru,’ ‘Histrionic Club of National College’, ‘ Bangalore Little Theatre,’ and such which rendered selfless yeoman service to Kannada theatre in the early days. We see the Kannada theatre slowly moving away from the realistic plays of Kailasam (Bhargavi’s pet play being Taali Kattok Kuline) and Sriranga through those of Parvatavani (‘Bahaddur Ganda’ being Bhargavi’s favourite) and Kshirasagara to those of Lankesh and Karnad. Bhargavi lists not only scores of plays (and films) in which she acted but also the entire cast, which serves as a valuable reference work for Theatre-scholars.
On one occasion, Bhargavi admits that passion for the stage is an ‘incurable madness’; immediately, she adds: ‘but no regrets.’ I am sure many others like CGK, B. V. K. C. R. Simha, and Prema Karanth would agree with her. Kannada theatre is rich today only because of committed artists like them.
C. N. Ramachandran
C. N. Ramachandran
Labels: Book Reviews