Blending mythology and koodiyattam, Bhima uses action, sound and light to tell the Pandavaa��s story
Theatre had been a part of his life ever since college. But at 22, all Vivek Vijaya-kumaran knew were its contemporary interpretations. Then, in 2009, at a workshop by Adishakti, he found a form that intrigued him. a�?In one of the segments, called Breath Practices for Navarasam, I was introduced to koodiyattam, a classical Sanskrit theatre form from Kerala with a history of over 2,000 years,a�? recalls Vijayakumaran, explaining how he found that the actora��s actions had a depth and intensity that he found missing in contemporary work. This encounter has since grown into one of his most challenging productions, Bhima, which he is a�?bringing backa�? to Adishakti this weekend.
Taking us back to the beginning, Vijayakumaran says that though he had wanted to pursue koodiyattam, he couldna��t find a context. Until he did a dramatised reading of Ashok Malhotraa��s book, Child Man, in 2011. He read the part of Bhima. a�?The author used him as an archetype to comment on urban living. And I felt it was an opportunity to marry both ideasa��to train in the theatre form and to make a play on this complex man,a�? he says, adding, a�?The play explores the space between where we come from and where we want to go. Bhima is strong yet vulnerable; hea��s a man with ideals, but unable to stick by his convictions.a�? The Bengaluru-based actor-director feels it also draws a parallel with our lives, where, with technological advances, humanity is taking a beating.
As he worked on the plot, he also began training under koodiyattamA� artistes G Venu and Sooraj Nambiar in Keralaa��focussing on the act, Ajagarakabalitham (where Bhima sees an elephant being devoured by a snake and a lion). a�?My narrative begins with this episode, and then moves to four othersa��like his relationship with Hidimbi, whom his mother asks him to forsake, and his rage at Draupadia��s vastrahan, which he cana��t act upon as he cana��t go against his older brother,a�? he says.
A new language
The 31-year-old has used body movement, sound, light and text to tell the tale. As he didna��t want to imitate the classical form, Vijayakumaran says that his mudras are deconstructed, creating a physical language a�?that is my interpretationa�?. He is accompanied by Sachin Gurjale on the djembe, didgeridoo, shankh (conch) and shaker. Gurjale trained in koodiyattam percussion, so that his music a�?enhanced the actora��s actionsa�?. a�?The set is minimal, just some bamboo lights designed by (theatre artiste) Anish Victor. Wea��ve also used light to add to the narrative,a�? he explains. Currently training under Manipuri director Kanhailal Heinsman, focussing on body presence, next up, Vijayakumaran is planning a non-verbal production for children.
Tomorrow, at 7 pm, at Adishakti, Pondicherry. Details: 0413 2622287
a��Surya Praphulla Kumar