It’s been a while since Theatre Nisha staged a Tamil play in the city. Today they are remedying that, with their latest production Vrikodara—a play that has been in the making for over five years. “I’d met actor Saravanan while directing a few of Koothu-P-Pattarai’s plays and we’d discussed working on (Malayalam writer) Vasudevan Nair’s Randamoozham. But since many had already tackled the subject, we decided to look at a new conflict,” begins director V Balakrishnan, explaining, “We wondered, what would Bhima narrate if asked to describe his life’s journey?”
With that as the starting point, the duo did extensive research, creating a script inspired by Randamoozham’s narrative, but drawing the conflict and characterisation from sources like Vyasa’s Mahabharata and Bhasa’s Madhyam Vyayoga. Vrikodara (meaning ‘the wolf bellied one’, a reference to how Bhima has a ravenous appetite, but is all muscle) begins with the Pandava doing shradham for the dead and looking back at his life. “With the Mahabharata, it is impossible to say one has written something new. But we’ve tried to bring in fresh perspectives—like how, for Bhima, swearing to kill Duryodhana was not as important (their conflict was decades old) as the fact that his son Ghatotkacha would not get his inheritance,” says the director.
While the sets are minimal, the music will be rich and varied. “For the first time, we will use a Carnatic piano (performed by Srivaralaxmi Maya), while percussionist Vishwa Bharath will accompany on a variety of folk instruments, like the urumi, thappu and thudumbu,” he says. They are also proud of a “reimagined gadha”, which, unlike the decorative ones we’ve seen on TV, is more functional—“heavy on one end, with edges to use for stabbing, and a long rod to use much like a silambam spear”.
Today (7 pm) and tomorrow (3 pm and 7 pm), at Alliance Francaise. Rs 100. Details: eventjini.com
—Surya Praphulla Kumar