ONE EVENING AT THE END OF MAY, I found myself huddled with eight men and women in a makeshift tarpaulin tent, seeking shelter from the lashing rain. Next to me, a bespectacled elderly man addressed a 20-something boy fidgeting with a sound mixer. “We don’t mind the rain,” he said. “Just tell us if the play will happen.”
We were in Kalagrama, a sprawling, ten-acre arts centre in the west of Bangalore, waiting for the start of Malegalalli Madumagalu (Bride of the Mountains), a nine-hour-long, all-night theatrical production of Kuvempu’s acclaimed 1967 novel of the same name, adapted for the stage by KY Narayanaswamy. The show—the twenty-second of that run—had been scheduled to start at 8.30 pm that night and conclude at 5.30 am the next morning. But a drizzle that began at 7 pm soon built to a downpour, and audience members who had gathered early at the open-air stage were forced to wait in the tent located at the top level of the amphitheatre. When our numbers grew, we were shifted to a larger indoor enclosure.
Crew members went around, assuring people that the play would begin as soon as the rain abated, or even lightened to a drizzle. “People have watched the play through the rain, covering their heads with cloth,” an organiser told me. About an hour later, indoors, a woman said into the darkness, “I don’t care how late they start—I’m not leaving without watching the play.” Unfortunately, her determination was in vain: the torrent did not let up even slightly, forcing the organisers to postpone the show.