Cover Photo: L to R: Champa Shetty, Srinivasa Prabhu, Ajit Hanamakkanavar, Mahesh Dattani, Dr. Vidya Malavalli, Anand Rao, Chaitanya KM,Sunetra Pandit.
BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE
Atlanta, GA, April 16, 2021: “The show must go on,” goes the adage. True to it, many theatre enthusiasts found themselves quickly adapting to changing times as the unprecedented pandemic forced them to stay indoors with restrictions on group gatherings and hesitant audiences. Shifting over to the digital premise, Nammerica Natakotsva, an International Drama Festival organized by Nammerica, showcasing 12 Kannada plays scripted by nine eminent playwrights, presented from artists across India, America, England, Germany, and Holland kicked off its virtual opening ceremony with elan on April 3, 2021. The festival began on April 11, 2021 presenting two plays per day.
Atlanta’s Paradesi Nataka Mandali is also a participating team in the festival.
Also a competition among plays, the ceremony’s exclusive guest list included Suman Gollamudi Nanduru, Executive director of
Indo American Arts Council, Ajit Hanamakkanavar, journalist, Suvarna News and some of Karnataka’s finest representing
the judging panel, including Srinivasa Prabhu, Sunetra Pandit, Chaitanya KM, Champa Shetty, Dr. Vidya Malavalli. Directors and a few actors of the plays also featured in the
“I am so happy to have another great facet of our Indian culture showcased like this,” remarked Nanduru. “It gives me immense pleasure to watch the enthusiasm of the people that has not been curbed by corona virus but rather find avenues to explore their creative expression in any way possible,” observed Hanamakkanavar. Jury members commended Rao’s efforts in keeping the theatre spirit alive.
Per its theme, many definitions of theatre and its implications emerged.
“Theatre is essentially a discipline. Theatre is a great medium to build and shape your personality,” noted Prabhu.
“Theatre has every art form integrated within. There are no greater means of transferring knowledge, literature, and culture than through the theatre,” said Festival director – Anand Rao in his interview with NRI Pulse. Rao is a multi-lingual writer, actor, director, and creator of Nammerica. His highly acclaimed and award-nominated play “A Muslim in the Midst” opened to sold-out audiences at New York’s Hudson Guild Theater in 2016.
“A firm grounding in the traditional theatre I believe is essential for any artist,” said Rao, who has been a theatre enthusiast since his formative years. Rao in fact met his wife Swathy on stage. With a theatre festival on their minds for years, the couple, Rao said had not sprung into action due to the logistics involved. “Virtual theatre eliminates a lot of those logistical challenges. In our case, it developed organically,” said Rao, adding that reading plays on zoom eventually led to the festival.” The goal of this event is to become the first of an annual affair that continues to grow year after year. “
Is it possible for digital presentations to converge in ways of the traditional kind? Rao believes that technology needs to catch up soon to bridge the physical and digital divide. Admitting he could be wrong, Rao predicts that the audience, in the future, will have the option of watching a show or watch it on screen at home, even in the post-pandemic world.
Theatre, especially in its pure form where the actors can project
their natural voices without the aid of mics and amps, where all music is live
and everything takes place within the 3 walls, Rao opines can never be replaced
by digital performances.
“The most important thing is to make sure the camera frame is fixed,” noted Rao about bringing digital recordings close to stage performances, adding that the camera needs to be treated as the audience and recorded without any cuts and edits. Rao underlined the shortcomings of virtual backgrounds in applications such as zoom, preferring to use physical instead.
“Some of the plays in the Nammerica Theatre Festival are the greatest plays written in Kannada literature. It would really be a tragedy if every Kannadiga in the world does not watch and appreciate the great work the teams have put in,” said Rao inviting Kannada audiences across the globe to enjoy the festival. Please check https://www.nammerica.com/ for details.
Nammerica is a unique digital media entity, launched in February 2018 with a vision of producing original content in Kannada from the US. Kicking off with free-wheeling interviews, the channel garnered good fan following. With changing content and strategies, Rao is looking into expanding further to create stories to wider audience and willing to collaborate with like-minded individuals and groups.
Advisory board includes Mahesh Dattani, Raj Patil, and Ratee Apana. Organizing committee – Swathy Sekhar Anand, Soma Shekhar, and Benki Basanna.