Borrowing elements from Kutiyattam and the Mahabharata, the play Bhima is all set for its relaunch tonight
VIVEK Vijayakumaran had always been intrigued by Kutiyattam. For the uninitiated, it is a Sanskrit theatre performed traditionally in temples of Kerala, replete with mudras. It is also recognised by UNESCO as a ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’. “I wanted to find out what an urban actor like me could derive from an ancient theatre like Kutiyattam. Also, if I could find a language of expression that is not distant from urban sensibilities and is, therefore, more understandable,” says Vijayakumaran about his Kutiyattam-inspired play Bhima. The project was conceived in 2011, and he began his Kutiyattam training the following year thanks to an Inlaks India Theatre Award grant.
This one-year, and 12-show-old production has undergone a major revamp, and is set for a relaunch tonight. And, Vijayakumaran, artistic director of city-based Our Theatre, has Anitha Santhanam to thank for the reboot. “Since I had conceptualised it and was playing the titular role (of Mahabharata’s Bhima) at the same time, the play lacked an outsider’s perspective, an outsider who also has some understanding of Kutiyattam. Anitha (part of Perch Theatre) happened to see our show in Ranga Shankara last June, and expressed her interest to work with us. Since she is a Bharatanatyam dancer, she could understand the stylised movements and vocabulary that feature in Kutiyattam. The story evolved organically, and we took it to Pondicherry, Chennai, Delhi and Colombo. The Bhima you will see tonight is quite different from what I had conceived, now with Anitha as its director,” says the 31-year-old.
So what does the new Bhima have in store? He says, “We are trying to find the relevance of a character like Bhima in modern times, and his hunger. Here, hunger is the metaphor for hunger of money and power. We are also looking at what happens when a hero like him falters, as well as his relationships with his father, wife and Lord Krishna. The new play has taken a more rounded approach to interpreting Bhima.”
His fixation with Bhima comes from his love of three books — Child Man, Weight and Rendam Muzham. While he will play the eponymous role in this 65-minute show, Sachin Gurjale will take on the roles of a percussionist, narrator, and Lord Krishna and Draupadi.
July 29-30. Entry Rs 200. At Shoonya, Lal Bagh Main Road. 7 pm.
— Barkha Kumari