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    A traditional
    musical and
    an offbeat Tagore
    play make their way to their city

    EBUTING across city stages next
    week are not one but two plays by
    Mumbai-based Gillo Theatre
    Repertory, which specialises in theatre
    for young audiences. But artistic
    director Shaili Sathyu is quick to
    point out that adults will also find
    the plays equally entertaining.
    Tapping into the robust mythological
    and literary wealth of the country,
    Sathyu brings Hanuman Ki
    Ramayan and She-He-Shey.
    Different strokes
    Adapted from mythologist and
    author Devdutt Pattanaik’s book
    Hanuman’s Ramayan by Ram Dayal
    Sharma, a playwright, actor and
    singer, who has just won an award
    from Sangeet Natak Akademi for his
    contribution to nautanki, Hanuman
    Ki Ramayan is particularly interesting,
    for its nautanki style performance,
    where every line is sung. The
    dialogues will be accompanied with
    music from the harmonium and
    naqqara, a kind of drum.
    Directed by thespian Devendra
    Sharma, the story traces the journey
    of Valmiki and his pride at having
    completed the epic Ramayana,
    only to be told by sage Narad that he
    rates Hanuman’s version of the tale
    much higher than his. The plot follows
    Valmiki’s quest to the
    Himalayas where an aged Hanuman
    now resides and what follows after
    he reads the latter’s text.
    “It’s a very simple story. We have
    not tried to complicate the original
    plot. But the hidden message is that
    of perspectives and how people have
    their own versions of what has
    transpired. We also aim to highlight
    the importance of oral traditions,
    tales that have been passed on from
    generation to generation and how
    people have made each story their
    own,” shares Sathyu. After the play,
    the team will talk about nautanki
    theatre and stage a few short plays
    that demonstrate the origins and
    history of the genre.
    Tale spin
    She-He-Shey on the other hand is
    based on Rabindranath Tagore’s He:
    Shey – a collection of short stories and
    poems that he wrote for his granddaughter
    while she was growing up.
    “Shey is Bengali for ‘it’ and Tagore
    made up an imaginary friend, whom
    he called Shey, for his granddaughter
    and would tell her tales about this
    friend, with her often joining him in
    coming up with tales,” explains
    Sathyu, sharing that she had to face a
    lot of negativity from naysayers who
    said that it was too challenging a play
    to stage. “Shey is something that cannot
    be described. It’s faceless, colourless
    and shapeless, so people laughed
    at me when I chose to do this,” she
    says. But Sathyu managed to pull it
    off with a neat trick, which she says
    will not be revealed until you actually
    see it on stage.
    With mosquito nets as the backdrop
    (as they hark back to grandparents
    homes and storytelling sessions),
    the stories are absurd and fantastical,
    a departure from Tagore’s other
    works. Stories are told through dance
    vocabulary, like abhinayas and
    mudras, with the set inspired by the
    author’s sketches and paintings.
    From the story of a jackal who wants
    to be human to a foolish man who
    believes in a sage who lives in a tree,
    the narratives are entertaining,
    Sathyu assures us. “I encourage people
    to come and see a different side to
    Tagore’s writing ,” she signs off.
    Hanuman Ki Ramayan, July 23,
    7 pm, at India Foundation for the
    Arts, RMV 2nd Stage. She-He-Shey,
    July 24, 7pm at Seva Sadan,
    Malleswaram.
    Details: facebook.com/GilloGehri
    —Rashmi Rajagopal

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