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Using rhythm as its central motif, Adishakti revives a classic and retells the story of Ganapati

hen Adishaktia��s artistic director, Vinaykumar KJ, tells me that they are staging Ganapatia��a play that deals with creation, celebration, destruction and returna��it strikes me that the four words also describe the Pondicherry-based theatre groupa��s philosophy towards work. A new play is always celebrated with many stagings, then retired for a while, so they can explore other themes, before it is dusted off, to be looked at with fresh eyes. a�?Our guru, the late Veenapani (Chawla), did this soA� there would be constant growth,a�? explains Vinaykumar, elaborating that Ganapati, which was last staged in 2014, will be setting out on a five-city tour, beginning with Auroville on February 16.
The biggest change in the new edition is that instead of five performers, there will now be six. a�?As Ganapati developed out of a desire to explore rhythm as text, this addition lets us explore more rhythmic structures, which, in turn, makes the play more dynamic,a�? he says.
The beginningThe Ardha Kuncha Narishwara, Ganapati's other name, in Ganapati
The play blends several storylinesa��that of a group of artisans making the goda��s idol for an annual festival, enactments of the goda��s birth myths, and a group of musicians trying to find their balance after another, with a different rhythm, joins them. a�?Each story focusses on change and conflict, where it is up to the individual to accept it or reject it,a�? says the 45-year-old, explaining, a�?Ganapati epitomises the hybrid. He challenged creation (Parvati made him, no man had a part in his birth), which led Shiva to challenge it. This theme, of traditions clashing with change, is reflected around us today, tooa��think of how people become violent when faced with another perspective. So the subject is very contemporary.a�?
On how the play evolved, Vinaykumar recalls that in the late 90s, they were getting familiar with the rhythmic structures of koodiyattom, where a�?music is not an accompaniment, but rather the director, creating the emotional landscape for the actor to form his expressionsa�?. The resemblance of the mizhavu (the drum used in koodiyattom) to the elephant-headed god, sparked the idea for the play. a�?Since we needed a wider reference, we crafted it as an interpretation of the birth stories related to Ganapati, and the myths are retold from different points of view,a�? he adds.
Sound and light
Set to the beats of the mizhavu, thappattam, tabala and djembe, the play uses a strong physical language, too, to convey its meaning. a�?It doesna��t have a linear movement; the actors are the musicians and narrators, and they move back and forth between those roles,a�? he says. Lights have also been used very efficiently. a�?Since the play is quite static, we gave it mobility with lights, using it like a camera to zoom, go wide. Each rhythmic shift has a shift in lights, too,a�? he smiles. Currently rehearsing with the other actorsa��Arvind Rane, Pascal Sieger, Nimmy Raphel, Anoop Davis and Apoorva Arthura��Vinaykumar signs off saying that later this year, they will change tracks again, with a new play, Mattavilasa Prahasana, that takes a satirical look at religion.
On February 16, at 8 pm, at Sri Aurobindo Auditorium, Bharat Nivas, Auroville. Details:
0413 2622887

a��Surya Praphulla Kumar

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