Girish Karnad's Broken Images

Bikhre Bimb in Hindi (Odakalu Bimba in Kannada and A Heap of Broken Images in English) by Girish Karnad is Ranga Shankara’s first production (2005).

Directed by Girish Karnad himself and KM Chaitanya, and starring Arundhati Nag (Kannada and Hindi) and Arundhati Raja (English), the play explores the dilemma of Indian writers who choose to write in English. A scathing look at the Indian literary establishment as well as a moving story of conflict and the desire for fame, Bimba continues to play to packed houses in Bangalore. It has traveled to various festivals across the country and has been independently staged to critical acclaim and popular success in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Pune and Hyderabad.


Broken Images – the genesis

Girish Karnad’s “Bikhre Bimb” was born as “Odakalu Bimba” in Kannada and was written exclusively for Ranga Shankara’s opening festival in October 2004. When the 35-day festival was designed to celebrate the birth of Ranga Shankara, it was decided that a new production of its nature was more appropriate for a later date.

Subsequently Karnad also wrote the English version – “A Heap of Broken Images”. Three unique things happened when Ranga Shankara produced the play in March 2005 –

a.Girish Karnad directed his play for the first time (the last time Karnad directed a play was 40 years ago when he did Badal Sircar’s Evam Indrajit)
b.Ranga Shankara produced it’s first play
c.A play opened in two different languages

The two plays performed to full-houses at the Ranga Shankara auditorium, between March 22nd and 27th of 2005. From then on, there were six shows of the plays every month for a period of six months at Ranga Shankara which is a record of sorts.

Rave reviews in both the print and electronic media greeted the play that successfully straddles both theatre and technology for the first time in Indian theatre.

The lead actors of the two plays – Arundhati Nag in the Kannada version and Arundhati Raja in the English version – infused different energies and layers of characterization to the play. It was very interesting for audiences who could follow both languages to see how the same play manages to hold sway over two entirely different sets of audience members with two different interpretations of the same text.

Broken Images – A synopsis

The one-act one-performer play tells the story of Manjula Nayak, a professor of English literature who has been an unsuccessful writer in Kannada. She finds international acclaim when she writes a novel in English, which becomes a bestseller.

The story starts with her introducing the audience to her novel in a TV studio, prior to a film on it is telecast. After she finishes her introduction, she is confronted by her own image on the screen which poses questions on betrayal of her language and identity when she chooses to write in English.


Broken Images
  -- Playwright’s note

The twenty-first century is the age of the electronic image. From every corner of our world, electronic images fling themselves at us, entertaining, educating, enticing, offering us a virtual world of global dimensions to immerse ourselves in. The very notion of a private self seems threatened by this onslaught from outside. But suppose the most vociferous of these images were one’s own?

Manjula Nayak is a not very successful Kannada short-story writer. She suddenly becomes wealthy and internationally famous by writing a best-seller in English. The question haunting Manjula is whether in thus opting for the global audience she has betrayed her own language and identity. A little-known face in Karnataka, she has now acquired an international image. And inherited problems of loyalty and betrayal.

And, without warning, it’s her own image that decides to play confessor, psychologist and inquisitor.

….for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter…..

T.S.Eliot
The Waste Land
April 2014
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