Addanda C Cariappa is in a defiant mood.
In just the fortnight since a Bengaluru court passed a provisional injunction on the marketing and sale of his controversial book Tipu Nija Kanasugalu (The Real Dreams of Tipu), the author has staged it as a play eight times — with a ninth show scheduled on 9 December.
And all the shows, including the forthcoming one, have been sold out, Cariappa told South First, a day ahead of the matter coming up for hearing in court again.
The book and play are considered an unflattering takedown of the ruler of Mysore Tipu Sultan (1751-1799), a polarising figure in present-day Karnataka which is divided between those who believe he was a great king who battled the British, and those who see him as a persecutor of Hindus.
It is also seen as a counter to Girish Karnad’s celebrated 1997 play Tipu Sultan Kanda Kanasu (The Dreams of Tipu Sultan), that has been described by scholars as a bid to correct the image of Tipu as a “ruthless and unprincipled ‘Other’ propagated by British historians… by creating… an alternative humane and noble character.”
While Karnad’s book is based on a Farsi document penned by Tipu Sultan himself that is preserved in the India Office Library in the British Library in London, Cariappa’s book, his critics say, is a figment of his own imagination.
The book was released by noted writer SL Bhyrappa on 14 November.
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The court injunction
On 22 November, the Additional City Civil and Sessions Court in Bengaluru had passed a provisional injunction preventing the publishers, the printer and the author of the book from marketing or selling it. There is no restriction, however, on printing and storing the book till the matter is decided.
The injunction came on a petition filed by former District Waqf Committee chairman BS Rafiulla that contended that the book contained inaccurate information on Tipu Sultan.
“The author has failed to provide justification for his claims in the books. This book hurts the sentiments of Muslims,” Rafiulla said.
“We will challenge the interim order in the same court. If we fail to win, then we are planning to appeal at the higher court against the order passed by the civil court. We will fight until justice is served,” declared Cariappa, who is director of Rangayana, a professional theatre training institute in Mysuru
The Rangayana performances
It is, in fact, at Rangayana that the play is being staged by students of the institute — and under police protection.
“We have already staged the play eight times at Rangayana. The tickets for the next show have been sold completely. The next show is scheduled on 9 December,” Cariappa said.
The order had observed that it could not grant an injunction to stop the play as it is being staged in Mysuru, outside its jurisdiction — and it did not expect it to be staged in its jurisdiction.
But Cariappa, in fact, has plans to take the play statewide soon. “We have planned to stage the play across the state starting from 25 December 25,” Cariappa said.
“The police are performing their duty. We do not want untoward incidents to occur during the show. We will continue to stage the play. We are not afraid of anyone,” Cariappa said when asked about apprehensions of law and order problems arising from the play’s staging.
Congress leader condemns play
Condemning the fact that the play was being staged at Rangayana, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee working president and MLA Saleem Ahmed alleged the BJP-ruled state government is helping in the propagation of a “false narrative: about Tipu Sultan.
“The esteemed theatre-training-institute Rangayans functions under the Department of Kannada and Culture. It is inappropriate to use the state-operated theatre institute to explicate the false narrative against the 18th-century-ruler Tipu Sultan,” Ahmed told South First.
“The Congress will take an appropriate decision against this false narrative at the earliest,” Ahmed said when asked whether the grand-old-party planned to object to the staging of the play at Rangayana.
Rangayana ex-director’s take
Describing most of the content in the book Tipu Nija Kanasugalu “a false narrative”, former director of Rangayana, H Janardhan, pointed out: “I have read the book, but am yet to watch the play. I distanced myself from Rangayana after the repertory was adulterated by the current director Cariappa.”
“It is not necessary to stage plays with police security at Rangayana. This incident has largely impacted the Kannada theatre movement,” Janardhan told South First.
“I never faced such a situation during my tenure. Instead of asking for protection, I used to ask cops to visit Rangayana as part of the audience. At present, the environment at this theatre training institute has worsened,” fumed Janardhan.
Life threat to Cariappa
Meanwhile, after receiving an anonymous letter threatening him with dire consequences, Cariappa filed a complaint at the Jayalakshmipuram Police Station in Mysuru.
“Even since Tipu Nija Kanasugalu was released and the play is being staged, a section of people are not only agitating against me but also sending life-threatening letters,” Cariappa told reporters at Mysuru.
“I have received a death threat letter from Shivamogga. They have clearly written in the letter that ‘your time is up and have reached the stage to eliminate you. Even the god in which you have trusted will not save you’. The identity has not been disclosed in the letter,” said Cariappa.
In seeking police protection, Cariappa said: “Professor Mahesh Chandraguru has abused me in a video. A section of people, provoked by his statements, are battering me. I have to travel to the office, theatre and other places. There is a possibility of people attacking me. I have sought police protection.”
It may also be noted that it was at the launch event of Tipu Nija Kanasugalu that Mysuru MP Prathap Simha had stoked controversy by stating that all the structures with three domes are mosques.