As a designer when I was asked to design the play, I read the short stories of Ka Tha Chikkanna for the first time when Basu gave me two books, but with the guilt of have not read his stories earlier. I quickly gone through the marked nine plus one stories, the first thing that catches my attention is that the language (kannada) that was used, I have to mention this even though I am not literary person to make these notes. But I have taken this observation as my starting point to position where the writer stands in this vast intricate mindscape of words and metaphors.
The mindscape which covers the skyline of the “Bruhat” city and the infinite skies on the “sepia” landscapes. (Sepia the colour which we associate with old photographs, but not that of nostalgic black and white pictures of the past). My observation about the kannada used in his works are kind of standardised ones and do not reveal any regional flavour or accent of particular region, but the handpicked words are for sure from the dark closets and it seems the words are dug out from the memories of one’s sepia times which almost all becomes the titles or one liners of the stories.
So I took this as my starting point to design the whole settings for this production, where all the nine stories could be enacted as theatrical piece in and around one neutral setting which I call as the mindscape of the writer. My interpretation with the design is that, it does not serve as conventional back drop to remind spectator of (nostalgic past) for the play to be performed against or as a elevated platform (of exaggeration) to enact a stories of lives which are webbed with memories and current dream like thoughts, like it happens in these nine short stories.
The scene graph of this play, houses all that complexes of the migrant bird which positions it’s self at a equilibrium by dreaming the chaos of colours without romanticising the past nor hesitating to mark the complexity of the colours itself.
So the design, and colours I have used are non representational but are handpicked suggestive patterns and colors of memories or hues of colourless dreams or colourless sleep.
So the hues, patterns and materials used in the entire play are like that of camouflaged nest from a migratory bird which could not be as colourful as bird’s memory of native past. But sure nest is made of some hues which is complex to segregate and call it with names. for example if a migratory bird wants to builds a strongest nest in city I am sure it does not only picks up the twigs of memory but also of the synthetic strings and twigs made of malleable steel and other plastics.
This above mentioned description of the design and its hues are symbolic interpretation by me as an artist, to compliment the haunting elements in the nine stories and also to create a potable space for the actors and action to take place in the stories of exterior and interior settings. So the settings is three dimensional, non centric and un proportionate and serve as skeletal structures rather than a opaque wall , where all the nine stories moves in and out of these structural memories(nest of a migratory bird) as fluid mass, which is unlikely happens in that of a static back drop or functional stage platform settings.
Even the costumes hear are neutral ones but the variations happens in costumes only as props to differentiate the characters from each other since the play is compilation of nine stories. Each actor plays a different roles in all nine short stories of this compilation and hardly become recognisable lead roles, but whereas actors flow like fluids into different roles of all stories.
As the spectator watches these characters from stories, experiences the same as one feels when they read stories in a stretch.
so the design is neutral to all stories but various possibilities are explored by actors in the usage of the levels that are created, ranging from the scale of labourers living sheds (an actors in some stories almost crawl on knees in and out of the set) to the levels of a multi storied urban structures, (an actor stands at a ceiling heights of the theatre auditorium and positions himself at the heights of the power and position as in the stories).
There are instances that in some movable stage properties I have almost illustrated the mood of the individual stories with some strong images, like the skeleton structure of leaf like revealing its veins of dried “pupil tree “leaf, symbolizing the play writes description of the changing landscape of the native village and its serene, due to the onslaught of development and greed.
In one instance a big role of a red carpet bundled, serves as sitting throne for the character (bureaucrat like) in the story.
In the second instance I have tried that the costume of the actor and the objects from the stories are embedded together thus giving new reading (imagery) as designer’s interpretation of the stories.
(For e.g. the lazy and the ever sleeping character in one of stories is sewed with lazy and drowsy bed spreads to the actors spine, as if the blankets walk out dark beds and narrate the moods of a lazy character of the story.
As a designer it’s a great co-reading experience of literary works that the director chooses to experiment amongst the actors and the theatre community. This experiment by Basavalingaiah is a great community exercise, where freelance young actors and professional artist, singers, writer and theatre enthusiast came together for a month long period and celebrated the true spirit of a collective art form, the theatre is. At the times when amateur theatre troops in Bangalore are losing its vigour and past glory or at the times while some individuals are struggling to even finding comforts in one man or two man or three man theatrical productions.
(This designers note was first written for the production broacher, during the first staging of the performance KATHACHI KATHA RANGA(collection of 9 short stories of Ka Tha Chikkanna), directed by Basavalingaiah, for Samsa Yuva Ranga, at Ravindra kala shetra, on 4th, 5th, 6th of August, 2011.