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    War and deforestation melds with the disrobing of Panchali in this dramatic operetta

    It may be presumptuous to make a comparison to TS Eliota��s Wasteland, but Prasanna Ramaswamya��s new production, Shakthi-k-Koothu, is almost as multi-layered. The play, which revisits the disrobing of Panchali in the Mahabharatha, uses the incident as a launchpad to explore the a�?continuum of the atrocitya�? through literary characters, historical happenings and contemporary events. a�?A few years ago, for a play I was doing on Karna, I read the Vyasa Mahabharatha. There is a portion where Krishna takes Arjuna outside and shows him Draupadi, standing like a fire shooting up from the Earth to the sky,a�? begins Ramawamy, adding she took a cue from that to draw comparisons between the woman and nature. a�?For this play, Ia��ve used Subramanya Bharatia��s Panchali Shabadam, where he refers to her as energy, shakti. Ia��ve used it to connect violation to women, nature and war,a�? she says.
    Back and forth
    Created like an operettaa��that moves between monologue, dialogue, music and dancea��the stylised play hopes to be a reflection on our refusal to learn from history. a�?The action moves between different states of being: that of a person, actor and character. The actor might wonder about something, which is then reflected on by the character she is playing,a�? says the director, explaining she has used all the five elements to tell her tale. a�?Like the sequence on wind, which starts off as a celebratory evocation, before shifting to become a reflection on how it must have felt on the body of the half-burnt child in Vietnam, fleeing the napalm that it carried. And how, instead of music, in Nazi torture chambers, it would have carried screams.a�?
    The 85-minute play (which premiered this June in Paris) has actor Rohini, dancer Revathy Kumar and folk artiste Nellai Manikandan on stage. a�?The contemporary, stylised form of theatre interested me. There is constant interaction between the singer, who evokes each character, and me,a�? says Rohini. a�?The text also takes you to so many dimensions of the disrobing, talking about the powerless and the powerful.a�?
    Striking a chord
    Keeping the playa��s fluidity and subject in mind, the sets are not constructed (a�?empty space is paramount as that’s where you bring your imaginationa�?). It comprises various fabrics designed by artists Krishnapriya and Vasuhan. The music also ebbs and flows. a�?It is mostly raaga-based singing and evocations. Ia��ve also set poemsa��by poets like Cheran, Avvai, and Tirumavalavana��to music, besides working with compositions by Muthuswamy Dikshithar,a�? Ramawamy says. Though the play is not meant to teach any lessons, Ramawamy signs off with the hope that people realise that they cana��t always wait for Krishna to come to their aid. a�?We need to use our own energies instead.a�?
    August 8, 9 and 11, at Alliance Francaise, Koothu-p-Pattarai and Spaces, from 7 pm. Free entry. Details: 9094038623

    Surya Praphulla Kumar


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