Direct Action: A riveting theatrical journey chronicles the life and legacy of late peasant leader MD Nanjudaswamy

In a captivating performance that vividly portrays the challenges faced by farmers, Dr. Nataraj Huliyar’s play, “Direct Action,” based on the life and struggles of the late Prof. M.D. Nanjundaswamy (MDN), a historical leader in La Via Campesina, founder of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS), and legendary organizer of peasants in India, has resonated with farmers across his home state of Karnataka.

Presented by Bengaluru-based Nagna Theatre, the play sheds light on MDN’s pivotal role in organizing farmers in Karnataka and the broader issues that have shaped the agricultural landscape.

Sampat Maitreya, portraying MDN, won hearts with a performance that not only resembled MDN but also captured the essence of his body language and impassioned speeches. Across several theaters in the state, the audience responded fervently to Maitreya’s portrayal, welcoming him with applause and echoing slogans reminiscent of MDN’s protests. The play seamlessly wove together the narratives of other influential figures like N.D. Sundaresh, H.S. Rudrappa, and Kadi-dal Shamanna, drawing active engagement from the audience.

The playwright skillfully navigates MDN’s life through an interview with a journalist, bringing to the forefront select incidents spanning four decades. These incidents include farmers’ agitation against anti-farm laws, the imposition of levies, tragic events like farmer deaths in police firing, and issues such as harassment for loan recovery, the seizure of valuables, international trade agreements, and the entry of multinational companies into the retail sector.

The title itself, “Direct Action,” is symbolic of the farmers’ resistance against the seizure of valuables due to uncleared loans. The play delves into the profound impact of this resistance, marked by slogans calling for the ‘re-seizure’ (maru japthi) of confiscated goods. Many farmers sacrificed their lives or faced imprisonment during this arduous struggle.

The Hindu reports that the audience, predominantly farmers with green shawls symbolizing the identity of the KRRS, paid their respects to the late MDN and the talented actors, including director Kabaddi Narendra Babu, by waving their green shawls.

This article is inspired by a report from The Hindu and has been edited for our international readers.

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