JustUs Repertory presents
What She Said: Six Voices from the Ramayana
Rukmini Arangham, Kalakshetra, 6pm
December 8, 2019 Chennai
November 28, 2019
WHAT SHE SAID
Six Voices from the Ramayana
Written and directed by Dr. Gowri Ramnarayan
Featuring: Sunandha Raghunathan, Akhila Ramnarayan, Aarabi Veeraraghavan
Music: Shreya Devnath and Praveen Sparsh
Lighting Design: B Charles
Publicity: Artspire, Chennai
Produced by JustUs Repertory, Chennai (www.justusrep.com)
Date: Sunday, 8 Dec 2019
Venue: Rukmini Arangam, Kalakshetra Foundation, Tiruvanmiyur, Chennai
Tickets: Rs 300 - available on BookMyShow / http://bit.ly/WhatSheSaidBMS
Whatsapp: 91 98400 89030
ABOUT THE PLAY
What She Said takes a close look at six women in the Ramayana.
The epic sees them more as supporting characters, there to move along the narrative. Gowri Ramnarayan's play sees each of them as individuals in their own right, believing that their stories are in no way less important or less intense than the saga of Sita, the heroine.
Two of the women do drive the action forward. Manthara's blind love for Kaikeyi turns her mistress into an outcaste hated by everyone. "I failed to see that her pitiless son would disown her," she wails. Disfigured by the Aryan prince whose love she sought, forest dweller Surpanakha finds that vengeance brings neither justice nor peace.
Their husbands' lust for the wives of other men, turn two wise queens into tragic victims. When mighty Vaali is assassinated, his consort Tara has to live on to protect her son. Mandodari is forced to watch her magnificent husband Ravana rushing into the flames, dragging his whole asura clan with him.
Finally, there are the voiceless nonentities. Sita's sister Urmila remains one step behind, with a husband who has no second thoughts about abandoning her as he follows his brother into exile. Few know Rama's sister Shanta even by name. Her birth father Dasharatha gives her away to his friend King Romapada, and Romapada gives her away to a man who saves his kingdom.
As the play unfolds in six scenes, playwright, director, actors and audience, discover that each woman has a story both unique and universal, as ancient myth morphs into contemporary reality.
DIRECTOR'S NOTE ABOUT JUSTUS REPERTORY
Think Ramayana and you think heroes. Mostly men. What about the women, particularly those who flit in and out of these great tales?
As a playwright, I wanted to follow Urmila, Manthara, Surpanakha, Mandodari, Tara and Shanta on their different journeys. I saw how they faced their own struggles for survival. I discovered that their problems are our problems. "What She Said" is what they said to me.
I heard them raising disturbing questions which are very much alive our contemporary world. But exploring those issues is emancipatory. And I hope that searching for answers together with our audience will bring insight and understanding.
Actors Sunandha Raghunathan, Akhila Ramnarayan, and Aarabi Veeraraghavan, who have been part of JustUs Repertory's work through the years, bring the characters in "What She Said" to life, with Shreya Devnath and Praveen Sparsh helming the soundscape, and B Charles in charge of lighting design.
ABOUT JUSTUS REPERTORY
Founded in 2006, JustUs Repertory has established itself as a leading performing arts group of India creating theatrical works of international class. Using modern techniques to produce works steeped in Indian culture, always in a global context, they explore historical, political and literary pasts which art must engage to represent the complexities of contemporary life.
JustUs Repertory's multi-genre works blend poetry, music, dance and the visual arts, created by inhouse playwright and Artistic Director Dr. Gowri Ramnarayan in collaboration with renowned artists in all these spheres, Bombay Jayashri, TM Krishna, Priyadarsini Govind, Savita Narasimhan, Sheejith Krishna and Mythili Prakash among them.
JustUs productions have been acclaimed by audiences and the press in all the major cities of India, and showcased at national and international venues in the US, UK and South Asia. Dark Horse won two national awards, and Night's End had a week's run at the Soho Theatre in London (Dec 2017).
Playwright, theatre director, founder member and artistic director of JustUs Repertory, Dr Gowri Ramnarayan was formerly Deputy Editor, The Hindu, and vocal accompanist to legendary musician MS Subbulakshmi,. Her multi-lingual and multi-genre theatre productions have been staged in major cities in India, South Asia, North America and Great Britain. Gowri has authored biographies and children's books, translated Vijay Tendulkar's Marathi plays and Kalki Krishnamurti's Tamil fiction, served as Fipresci Jury member at international film festivals in Europe. She is Chairperson, Rukmini Devi Arundale Trust, Senior Associate, Sruti magazine, member, Regional Advisory Committee, ICCR, and Adjunct Faculty, Asian College of Journalism.
Actor, writer and director with over 13 years experience in Chennai's English theatre, Sunandha Raghunathan has worked on a variety of plays with leading theatre companies. She wrote the play Mundhirikkotte (developed at The Royal Court's International Writing Programme), as also several award winning one-act plays in the Short + Sweet Festival, and the screenplay for the critically acclaimed Irudhi Suttru. A Charles Wallace scholar with a Master's Degree in Text and Performance (RADA and Birkbeck College) she was a member of the 2019 Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab. Sunandha is also trained in Bharatanatyam and Kalaripayattu.
Writer, independent scholar, theatre actor, Carnatic and rock vocalist, Dr Akhila Ramnarayan is a key member of JustUs Repertory, and founder member of performing arts collective Sahrdaya Foundation. Awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi's Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar for acting, she has toured with JustUs Repertory in India and abroad, scripted, acted in and helped produce Sahrdaya Foundation's Don Quixote. Currently the Divisional Chair for Literature and the Arts at Krea University, Akhila served as Learning and Development Manager, Pramati Technologies, and taught at the University of Dayton and the Asian College of Journalism.
A Bharatanatyam and contemporary dance practitioner with a master's degree in Contemporary Performance studies, Aarabi Veeraraghavan's choreography and practice are influenced by the spoken and written word which has led her to theatre. She has been a part of JustUs Repertory's technical/production teams. Aarabi teaches Pilates and dance techniques, focusing on injury prevention and alignment techniques.
A disciple of violin maestro Lalgudi Jayaraman, Shreya Devnath has established herself as a brilliant soloist and accompanist. She also curates, performs and tours with "A Carnatic Quartet", a Carnatic instrumental ensemble, and explores collaborative music. Adventures in theatre include scoring/performing for Gowri Ramnarayan's plays (When Things Fall Apart / What She Said). She is the architect of outreach programmes - The Special Project for the Armed Forces and Music Appreciation Program for underprivileged children. A gold medalist (MA Economics), a talented painter, poet and a short story writer, Shreya has extensively toured the US, UK, Australia and South East Asia.
Disciple of veteran Guruvayoor Dorai, Praveen Sparsh is a leading mridangam player who has toured the world with frontline Carnatic musicians, as also with world music bands (House of Waters, Sid Sriram Live, Sean Roldan and Friends, Aditya Prakash Ensemble). Creating Indo fusion music with his Sparsh Quartet, he has performed in independent music festivals (NH7 Weekender, Frostbite, Riff, Covelong Surf, DAM and MAD). Praveen has scored/performed music for theatre, short and ad films, outreach programs for Armed Forces and underprivileged children. Just released, his acclaimed mridangam-centric album Unreserved, explores the sounds of everyday life. Projekt Peragro, his music travelogue, captures his experiences as an avid trekker.
A multi-faceted theatre professional equally adept at lighting design, sound, sets, stage and event management, B Charles is a META-nominee lighting designer with a decade of experience in working with Indian classical and contemporary dance, theatre and standup specials in India and abroad. His Chennai Art Theatre (CAT), a performing arts management company, integrates planning, marketing and executing art events by providing logistical and technical support. It has hosted and co-hosted several events. Its annual festivals, the Fringe Festival and Theatre Binge, have run to full houses.