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Myth, music and stage

Myth, music and stage
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The ongoing Bharat Rang Mahotsav’s day two saw diverse plays, multi-lingual, non-verbal and some mythology based. Theatre lovers couldn’t have asked for more.

The first play of the day was Pampa Bharatha enacted by Samudaya group from Karnataka, was in Kannad. The play begins with two university scholars visiting Pampa’s hometown, Dharmapuri, in search of evidence of his work in his old age, and their encounters with characters from the past, who have witnessed the events. The plot moves forward with Pampa rising from the stone inscription erected in his memory by his friend and the Samantha king, Arikesari, and he also meets his favorite character from the Mahabharata, Karna.

In the course of this journey one experiences the hard realities of caste-based politics in society up till now, from the injustice done to Karna because of his caste to the political conspiracy leading to the murder of Pampa,  carried out by the then business class, the Jains and the Brahmins.

Another interesting play staged was Those Who Could Not Hear the Music which was created by the group Ranan from Kolkata. The performance piece was doubly inspired by the life, music and writings of and on Beethoven and Vikram Seth’s novel –An Equal Music.

Two letters form the core of this performance. One written by Julia, the protagonist of An Equal Music, to her fellow musician and lover Michael; the other written by composer Ludwig Van Beethoven to his brothers. Both deal with the pain of inevitable and irretrievable loss as their writers come to terms with their growing deafness - a loss all the more poignant since it involves the one sense central to the world of music that both individuals - one from contemporary fiction and one from European musical history - inhabit.

This combination of text, movement, Kathak and Beethoven’s music explores the many individual and collective, personal and epic textures arising out of this deep sense of loss. Beethoven’s music evokes all these and so much more of human experience with unbelievable insight, nuance, power and passion.

Hindi play Anji by Ank group from Mumbai is inspired by Dr Vasant Deo’s Hindi translation of Tendulkar’s original Marathi comedy, Chi Saubhagyakanshini. Undaunted by the fact that she is getting on in years but is yet to find the right match, Anjali Sharma (Anji) sets out to search for her dream man herself. During this journey, she comes across several characters, situations and difficulties. An explosive climax persuades us to re-examine our value system, especially concerning women.

Multi-lingual play Urubhangam by group Kasba Arghya, Kolkata was a six-hour long with four intervals.

The Play was a narrative initiated by Bhasa’s text of Urubhangam but expanding further to Vyasa’s Mahabharata or that exists as a performance text in our folk performances, to locate how a power centre is formed and how it gets demolished, how the pillars of the power structure get broken like the thighs of Duryodhona.

It starts from the reminiscences of the empire after the Bharat war and attempts to trace out how it all happened. Arghya’s Urubhangam is a theatre of Mahabharata, depicted through the body of an Indian actor adopting Indian acting methodology, also attempting to traverse the multicultural mythological India in its six hours journey. It is a theatre of physicality, if someone calls it a narrative then it is a physical narrative. The intervals are actually celebrated in an informal space outside the proscenium through folk performances or music to connect the tales of the tale.

Lastly, a play titled The Woman Who Didn’t Want to Come Down to Earth was a solo performance by Gabrielle Neuhaus.  This non-verbal play was a mini-series which deals with the life of a woman who refuses to touch ground. Confronted with external threats and demands, she obeys neither rule nor gravity and reaches absurd and extreme situations.

Each episode portrays with humour and surreal imagery the woman’s personality, as she follows with dogged termination of her own path.

Starting with a comic-style indoors aerial trip through a living room in which furniture becomes both obstacle and support in her quest to avoid encroaching dust, the piece soon develops a darker mood. She tentatively begins to take charge of her new surroundings before finding a triumphant, yet fragile new existence.

Originating partly from autobiographical material, The Woman Who Didn’t Want to Come Down to Earth depicts in crisp and succinct images the universal challenge of the individual to stay true to oneself.

When: On till 19 January
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