Oct 4, 2010
His boyish looks, the dainty smile and the young age belie that the king of Tulu theatre Devadas Kapikad could be completing 25 years of his active stage life that began with the highly successful “Bale Cha Parka” play. It was the first stage play written, directed and acted by him and it went on to create a record of sort in Tulu theatre and people christened the troupe as “Cha Parka team”. Since then the name has stuck on to the team despite the team’s composition undergoing changes with only Devadas Kapikad being the continuing link. He has endured all the upheavals like rock of Gibraltar to make his team a household name in Dakshina Kannada and other Tulu speaking pockets. With ‘Bale Cha Parka’ comedy king Devadas Kapikad had arrived on the Tulu theatre with a bang and still continues to rule the roost. As a writer, director and actor par excellence gifted with a knack for comedy, Devadas Kapikad has achieved the unthinkable – that of making the people flock to the theatre.
His USP is comedy and people come in hordes to see his plays knowing fully well that Devadas Kapikad’s plays guarantee comedy and laughter and he has never disappointed his fans. It is this trait of comedy that has earned him the nickname “Thelikeda Bolli”, a title that suits him fittingly. In these days when humour is hard to come by and to make people laugh is a daunting task Devadas has achieved the unthinkable feat of making people soak in laughter that for over a quarter of century now. People usually comment that Devadas Kapikad makes people laugh throughout the play but finally makes them cry. This is mainly because his plays are based on reality and end with that punch line of a social message that is close to real life. “Even though my plays are full of comedy I give a message to the people so that they can correct their reprehensible behavior and turn a new leaf. If I am able to do that I feel I have succeeded in my mission”, Devadas declares. He has drawn from none other than the acting genius Kamalahassan who is known for his novelty and versatility.
In the last 25 years since he first donned the paint for a career in Tulu theatre Devadas Kapikad has staged 43 plays on a variety of topics carrying out multi tasks of writing, directing, acting and providing music that gives a peep into the versatility of the genius he is. Recently he has essayed a role in a successful Kannada comedy film “Venkata in Sankata”, thus making a foray into the glamorous filed of cinema. But he doesn’t rue about missed opportunities or lost chances though there is a tinge of remorse on having missed the role in the recent Kannada blockbuster of Yogaraj Bhat’s “Pancharangi” as he could not give bulk dates due to his commitment to theatre booked much in advance.
In retrospect, does Devadas feel he has done something worthwhile to Tulu theatre? “I am not saying I have achieved something remarkable. Nonetheless, I have proved that it is possible to have a career exclusively in Tulu theatre not only for me but for my entire troupe. I have given a fitting reply to all those cynics who doubted my capabilities and were waiting for my downfall. Whatever success I have achieved has silenced my critics”, he explains. It may sound bombastic but it cannot be denied that he has given a new dimension to Tulu theatre and has proved his detractors wrong.
Devadas realized he possessed an uncanny ability to make his classmates laugh by his trademark one-liners when in high school and this made Decades realize that he had knack for comedy. He gave vent to his creative impulses by writing a school drama “Ananda Baashpa” (tears of happiness) when he was in 8th standard which was well appreciated by the teachers and audiences.
When he was in SSLC an opportunity came knocking at his door as Akashdeep Friends Club, Bejai asked him to write a play for their annual day. His guru B V Kirodian, a senior Tulu theatre personality, convinced him that he should write a good play and Devadas came out with a 2½ script of “Ellyaye Mallaye” and the play was staged with him in the leading role. The play was successful and within a year it was staged 8 times which was a rare achievements those days. His mentor B V Kirodian was highly impressed by his work, his sense of comedy and the acting prowess which gave Devadas the confidence to move ahead.
King of Comedy
He wears the crown “Thelikeda Bolli” with ease and has lived up to the image as a comedian without resorting to any vulgarity. In fact the title Thelikeda Bolli was suggested by one of the fans of Devadas in response to an advertisement in a leading paper which asked readers to suggest an apt title to Devadas Kapikad. The task of picking one title from among 30,000 odd letters received was given to Prof Amritha Someshwara who chose the title suggested by one Chandrakala from Kulai. He was presented with this title in the presence of his countless fans in a public function held in the Town Hall.
Finally a chance opportunity came on his way when an established Padavu Friends Club, Shaktinagar, asked him to write a play for their anniversary. Madhav K Shaktinagar (late) a leading name in Tulu theatre, who was one of the office bearers of Padavu friends was his classmate and he gave him an opportunity to write a full 3 hour play. The play “yaan mallaye” was highly successful and is the precursor of the now historic “Bale cha Parka” play. Having made his presence felt in Tulu theatre with “Yaan Mallaye” Devadas wanted to stage the play in the Town Hall. “I was thinking if people can enjoy good Tulu plays why not introduce the ticket system and draw them towards the theatre, which I did”, he confesses. He effected some changes to the original play and brought some seasoned artistes like Anand Bolar, V G Pal and retained some of the boys of Shaktinagar from the original play and thus was born “Bale Cha Parka”, which went on to create history in Tulu theatre. The play impressed Sadashiva Salian of Mumbai and he made it into a Tulu film “Sathya Olundu”, directed by well known director Arooru Pattabhi. Devadas also acted in the film.
When he was creating waves in Tulu theatre Devadas was still in University College pursuing his studies and along with studies he channelized his creative oomph towards Tulu theatre. After Bale Cha Parka he came out with “Gantethand” and “Eer Doora” while still in college and they elicited incredible response from the masses. It was in the college he fell in love with Sharmila, his college mate and married her subsequently. “Whoever said that ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ is perfectly true in my case as Sharmila has been the pillar of my strength and whatever I could achieve is because of her unstinted support and co-operation”, he reasons.
After marriage he started working for a construction company in Mangalore giving up a lucrative offer in Mysore to concentrate on theatre. After the success of “Eer Doora”, there was a lull as Devadas Kapikad fell disillusioned and disoriented due to the lugubrious atmosphere in the Cha Parka team. “The team spirit was at its lowest ebb as some members began to feel they are larger than the organization and started backstabbing. I just wanted to come out of the atmosphere and had decided to give up theatre completely” he maintains. But the pull towards theatre was irresistible and his wife provided the required impetus bring him back to where he belongs.
Sharmila took over the mantle as the manager of the team and after a hiatus of one year Devadas was back on his familiar turf. He formed a new team of artistes and after his second coming there has been no looking back. In 25 years Devadas Kapikad has immortalized his name in the annals of Tulu theatre by scripting, directing and acting 43 plays. Many of his plays such “Pudar Deethji”, “Maamu”, “Pudar Panodchi”, “Dever Deelekkapund” and many others etc., have been staged to houseful audience.
He has also staged shows in different parts of India and the gulf region and the audience have appreciated and responded with enthusiasm and it is their vibrant support, which keeps him going. Devadas is a bit sad about the competition in Tulu theatre which he feels is not healthy. “Competition is required but it should be healthy. Artistes should not be tempted with better perks just to sabotage a team. Artistes also should not behave they are larger than the institution or that they are indispensable”, he contends.
Where he gets inspiration for his subjects, one may wonder. Devadas says most of his plays are based on real life incidents. “An artiste has to keep his eyes and ears open to the happenings around him. I talk to people, read newspapers, watch television and get ideas. Even one line of real life incident is sufficed to develop a 3 hour play. The role of Boobanna in Bale Cha Parka was developed after casually talking to a deaf man for an hour”.
Though he has tasted commercial success with most of his plays one play which is close to his heart is “Yanori Baroliya”, where a deaf and dumb girl is waiting for some one to knock at the door of her heart but none comes forward to hold her hand. “Every one who saw this play had tears in their eyes which shows that I could evoke feelings in them and that gives tremendous gratification to me due to my multiple contributions towards the play”, he adds.
Having made an impressionable presence through the film “Venkata in Sankata” a few more Kannada movies including “Kaarthik” are ready for release very soon. He says he wanted to expand his canvass of activity which prompted him to accept good offers from the film industry. “Though I had many offers earlier I did not accept them as I did not want to sail in two boats. I could not give up theatre for which I am wedded to. Though I am now accepting few offers my first preference will always be theatre”, he states.
Does he brook any regrets? Though theatre has given him the satisfaction his only regret is that he is not able to finish a comedy play ‘Pushpaka Vimana’ that contains no dialogues. Apart from that he wants to make a Tulu film for which he has already zeroed in on the producer.
He attributes his troupe’s numero uno position to the discipline in the team. His wife Sharmila is a hard task master who never compromises when it comes to discipline. Since Sharmila travels with the troupe she has been able to have a strict discipline over the troupe. “My wife manages everything and sometimes I am not even aware where the next show is scheduled. The entire responsibility is taken up by my wife leaving me to deal only with my areas of play”.
Devadas is a happy and contented man as theatre has brought him, name, fame, adulation and financial stability. Many artistes have come and gone but Devadas Kapikad remains unswerving in his commitment to Tulu theatre. Many of his trusted artistes have left the troupe at crucial junctures but that has not deterred him. Those who have left the team in lurch to join other troupes are not taken back at any cost.
To mark the 25th years of his successful journey in Tulu theatre a public function has been organized at the Town Hall on October 9, 2010, which will be inaugurated by Dharmadhikari D Veerendra Heggade. With a natural flair for comedy and blessed with a knack to relate to common person’s life through his numerous plays Devadas Kapikad will continue to find a place in the hearts of all those who have witnessed his talent come alive on stage.