Prabhat Kalavidaru (Kannada: ಪ್ರಭಾತ್ ಕಲಾವಿದರು) is a theatre group based in Bangalore, India. Started in the year 1930, this group has staged many drama performances and is famous for its ballets. One of the most popular of their ballets is Cinderella, based on the English fairy tale and since 1977, has been staged more than a thousand times by the troupe.
Prabhat Kalavidaru was created in 1930 by a group of four brothers Gopinath Dasa, Karigiri Dasa, Jaisimha Dasa, and Dwarakanath who hailed from a traditional Brahmin family and were Harikatha exponents. The group was named Gururaja Orchestra and Nataka Mandali and was based in Tumkur. Later, financial trouble and the quest for a larger audience brought the family to Bangalore. Gopinath Dasa, regarded as the de facto leader of the group, incorporated new technologies in the performances and this helped draw large audiences. Rather than just being narrative, the plays incorporated themes from dances and folk traditions which was different than what was offered by the traditional drama troupes and this is considered an important reason for their success. The group was renamed Prabhat Kalavidaru in the year 1942. One of the first troupes to present Indian classical dance forms in the form of ballet, historians opine that the emergence of Prabhat Kalavidaru also heralded a cultural renaissance in the state of Karnataka. Some of the well-known artists of Kannada cinema like C. R. Simha, Srinath, Manjula and Lokesh started their careers with Prabhat Kalavidaru. Initially, many of the artists and technicians involved in the performances belonged to the founding family and at one point there were as many as 60 members of the family, spanning four generations who were actively involved. Now many people from outside the family are also involved in the affairs of the troupe.
Prabhat Kalavidaru has produced about 20 ballets; some of which are Mohini Bhasmasura, Karnataka Vaibhava, Kindari Jogi, Rama Pratiksha, and Punyakoti. Lot of experimentation is involved in enacting these dramas like amalgamating Western dance forms with Indian classical dance forms to create some sort of a fusion dance style and also using special lighting techniques to enhance the appeal of the drama. Prabhat Kalavidaru were one of the first theatre groups in India to introduce pre-recorded dialogues and lip-synchronisation. To compose songs and music for their plays, the troupe had built a small recording studio in their house itself. They also manufacture the masks, headgear, shields, swords, silk and velvet costumes needed for the plays. Creation of a play is a complex task and it takes about two years and a budget of about Rs. 1 to 1.5 million ($25 to 35 thousand) for the group to produce a play. The troupe's most popular production to date is Cinderella which has been performed more than a thousand times. Initially staged as a musical, the drama has undergone changes with time and in the 1000th performance; new music, stage settings and lightings were used. Though the artists involved have changed over the years, two performers, M S Shanthala and Subbanna, have the record of performing right from the first edition of Cinderella to the 1000th one. However, Malathi Simha (Daughter of founding member - Dwarkanath Das) has performed more than 600 shows of Cinderella as Cinderella.
Prabhat Kalavidaru also rents out the costumes, audio equipment and stage sets to other theatre groups and this is another source of income for them. They also run a dance school which is headed by Hema Panchamukhi, a famous actress in Kannada Cinema and the granddaughter of the founder Gopinath Dasa.
The family has split up currently and many members have settled in the United States. However, the group still stages plays and despite more outsiders getting involved in the production of the plays, the overall management is looked after by one of the family members. They recently created their website www.prabhathkalavidaru.com which has all the details of their performances.
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