There are actors who step into a role with consummate ease and make it so much their own that its impossible to envision what the plot would be without them.
I can never think of James Bond without Sean Connery. I recall with perfect clarity the pent-up excitement with which my older sister and I would go along as schoolgirls with our Dad, to watch it in the theatres. We have never since bonded (sic) with any of the others who reprised this role after Connery. Last June when I visited Edinburgh, I was as devastated as a teenage groupie to find that I had missed the great man’s public appearance by just a day. So near…
Last week, when I watched Bangalore based author, Anita Nair’s maiden attempt at writing a play, I was drawn in by one character. I was familiar with the script as the first reading of Nine faces of being while it was a work-in-progress was done in my courtyard in April 2010, as an initiative of ‘Under the Raintree’. Nair, an acquaintance of many years standing, had just completed the first draft of the adaptation of her own novel, Mistress and had requested ART to help her visualize the play.
Obviously then, I had a connect with the play that debuted at Jagriti. When I had learnt that Prakash Belawadi would be playing the role of old Koman, the weathered by time and experience Kathakali dancer, I knew it was a good thing for the play.
I have known Belawadi from the time I was sixteen; his older sister was my senior in college and she was one of my idols. Prakash was not in our college, National College, Basavangudi (where I did my pre-university or plus 2) but he was always hanging around the place. When I was in my first year there, I got to play the part of Shaari in Chandrashekhar Kambhar ‘s bold drama Jokumaraswamy. Belawadi’s Dad, the legendary Make-up Nani who had kindly agreed to come and do our make-up (no effort in theatre was too trivial for him, I guess), had to cancel at the last minute and Prakash stepped into the breach. That was the first time I actually met him and after fits of teenage giggles, which left him with shaky hands, I recall my older sister taking over to do my make-up.
Years later, I met him again while I was a reporter with Deccan Herald and he was with Indian Express. He, like many of us, was a huge fan of Allen, whom I was lucky enough to marry later. In later years, we were only marginally in touch. In December 2009, when I wanted to launch Allen’s novel Sentinel House, it was Prakash who made it all came through as part of Bengaluru habba at Ranga Shankara. He made a splendid speech that evening, imitating Allen’s mannerisms brilliantly and turned what could have been a maudlin posthumous launch into a mirthful affair, the way Allen would have wanted it.
All of the above personal digressions are to establish that I do have a soft corner for Belawadi. Notwithstanding this, I can be an impartial critic and I could not fault a single thing about the way he enacted the role.
I was bowled over by the man’s masterly acting. Simple mundu and veshti, kohl-lid eyes (dancer !!) , his diction, the pitch of the dialogue, the expressions which flitted from the self derisory to lightly mocking and later to real concern…you owned the stage, my friend.