Fritz Bennewitz, the German master of Brechtian drama, would gently grip her face, plugging her blooming dimples with his forefingers and say, “Excellent, excellent”. This was around 1982, during rehearsals for the Kannada adaptation of Brecht’s epic comedy, Mr Puntila and his Man Matti, which he was then directing. That was the first big acknowledgement of Umashree’s talent, but this praise hardly meant anything to her in those days.
First, she did not understand the importance of either Brecht or Bennewitz, and amateur theatre was not the place to earn money. She was there perchance, thankful for the opportunity but impatient to get back. It was the professional and touring rural stage, in and around Tumkur and Bangalore, that had literally kept her alive since 1978.