Adishakthi’s double feature gets us thinking on what else the epic has to offer
LeT’S begin with an existential question. If a story isn’t told, does it still retain its relevance? The folks at Adishakti don’t think so. In fact, they believe we’ve become disconnected from our myths and symbols. So in the last three years, one of their attempts has been to revisit a once much-interpreted story, the Ramayana. “Its multiple voices found expression until the 80s—in diverse forms ranging from folk and classical to feminist and modern. And then there was a sort of rejection of it. We wanted to bring back those various ways of interpretation and initiate a discourse,” begins Vinaykumar KJ, the artistic director of Adishakti. The result is The Tenth Head, Nidravathwam, Hanuman Ramayan and Sita. While the former two will be staged in the city this weekend, the latter—one of late Adishakti founder Veenapani Chawla’s dream plays—is still a work in progress.
The Tenth Head
Surprisingly, Vinaykumar admits that initially he wasn’t too excited about working with the Ramayana. “It doesn’t have many theatrical possibilities—unlike the Mahabharata, which is full of conflict. But then I looked at Raavana; his tenth head has always been a point of contention—it offset balance and even confused painters, who couldn’t figure out where to place it. So my play is from its perspective,” he says. Having premiered at the 2013 Prithvi Theatre Festival (it also came to the city last year, as part of what the actor calls a feedback-gathering performance), the play is a dialogue on independence and ambition. “We never repeat anything. The biggest challenge was finding a new physical language, one that is more internal,” says the 45-year-old. With live music—a jazz arrangement that has the artists turn musicians—to enhance the performance, he states that lighting is almost a character, too. “It creates spaces for us. Like a camera, it zooms in, gives wide-angle shots and mid-shots,” he shares.
On Sunday, Nimmy Raphel will take us on a journey into sleep. “What fascinated me was Lakshmana, Kumbhakarna and their relationship with sleep. While the former gave it up for 14 years, the latter was given a boon (or a curse): sleep for six months and stay awake for six,” explains Raphel. Though they don’t cross paths in the epic, for her one-woman act the 32-year-old changed that. “I explored their feelings and what I thought their movements would be like—a frenetic Kumbhakarna making up for lost time and a fast-paced Lakshmana who is gaining time,” she states, adding that she relied on movements from forms like kalari to portray the characters.
September 26-27, at Spaces, at 7 pm. Details: 42158062
—Surya Praphulla Kumar