sensibilities on stage
fest was a meaningful intervention by artistes through theatre to check
cultural invasion. "It was relevant at a time when society was closing
its doors to ideas of friendship and cooperation," said MK Rana, noted
theatre stalwart of the subcontinent. Here artistes from our Asian neighbors
have found a common platform to herald a unique theatre experience at a
time of deteriorating bilateral relations.
The inaugural item, Peking Opera, presented a slice of Chinese indigenous expressions, in music, dance, drama, and spectacle staging four ancient legends. Traditional in format, the opera is a synthesis of the folk and classical streams. Its special music (string instruments, cymbals and drums), traditional costumes in pleasing colors, rhythmic movements, and mastery of acrobatics evolved from its martial arts, was a new experience to the theatre buffs of Kerala. The stories though culled from Chinese legends, are universal in theme. Rebellion, love, and journeys in search of things special are common in human cultural history. A synthesis of natyadharmi and lokadharmi speaks in volumes of the Chinese experiments in Opera, which is a European art form. ‘The Intoxicated Concubine’ shows not just a leaf from its social history, but also a powerful human emotion with Chinese sense of aesthetics. The play ‘Monkey King’ is a riveting display of acrobatics. Beyond the apparent fun and spectacle, it evokes legends of Hanuman for the Indian audience. The play explores the theme of happiness. A group of monkeys understand that real happiness lies in community life, a living together sharing the joys around.
Wen Gusheng, the actor/director of the troupe is a familiar name in global theatre circuit. A winner of many awards, including the UNESCO award, he represents the younger generation of artists and has taken his group to the world stage. For him, opera is a tool to present social concerns.
'Mudrarakshasam,' a Sanskrit play of 4th c AD was a tribute to Jose Chirammel, a promising young director who met with a tragic end. He directed the play 21 years ago. Most of its former cast, 16 actors who have made their name in different fields of performing arts joined to re-enact the only political play in Sanskrit penned by Visakadatta. The play is a marvelous attempt at evolving a powerful indigenous theatre idiom borrowing heavily from Kathakali: its mudras, its abhinaya and its kalasam and making use of masks from folk arts.
'Paari Padukkalam' from the Department of Theatre, Pondicherry, is the product of a team of multilingual artistes who are students. Directed by Pralayan, the play is a page from the hidden past of Tamil history. It tells the story of a good chieftain of a small principality who becomes a victim of the rivalry between Chera, Chola and Pandya kings. There is the subaltern issue even among the royalty. Environment and good governance are woven in as sub themes. Although conceived as a poetic play that suits a tragic story, the play is not effective, in spite of its brilliant lighting.
'Bulha' from Pakistan is a tribute to the great mystic who advocated peace, love friendship and harmony among religious sects. Bulla was a Sufi saint. The play is a presentation of powerful scenes from his life that has come through his poetry, historical records, popular myths and dramatic episodes. The play recreates his times and his mission in life. His search for truth, his endearing relationship soaked in humanity with his mentor Sha Innayat, his struggle against the intolerant clergy and corrupt Nawabs, his opposition to war and bloodshed in the name of religion are a string of scenes in the play. Qawali music and songs that evoke the call from the mosque reverberate and lighting weaves a theme of its own: symbolic and aesthetic. It is a celebration of Punjabi culture. The play is a forceful message to the present day Pakistan and a plea for love and peace.
Madeeha Gaur is simply brilliant in giving the feminine sensibilities to
a spiritual and social theme. And the play is wonderful blend of all aspects
The group that staged the Sanskrit play Mudrarakshasam recalled their experience as beginners 21 years ago when the director Jose Chirammel directed the play for the first time. The interaction brought the evolution of Malayalam theatre to date to the focus.
Mamunur Rashid from Bangladesh is an internationally acclaimed theatre stalwart. He, with other renowned theatre personnel, has spearheaded alternative theater movement in Bangladesh. Politically active and socially committed, theatre is a powerful tool in his hand. During face to face, he shared his experience of making the play which is based on a real event. The central character is modeled on a real person whose name and identity is retained for political reasons. He also spoke on his experience of intolerance of theatre activism from the mainstream society and the State.
is a theatre activist who works for women empowerment and social justice.
She has more than twenty plays to her credit. A member of the Ajoka Theatre
from Pakistan, she is bent on strengthening people to people contact across
the border. Ajoka has performed in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and in the
West. The theatre stalwarts believe cultural ties in the subcontinent alone
will be the harbinger of peace beyond political turmoil.
"A new set
of dialectics is at play: between the linear and the non-linear, between
analogue and the digital, between sequential cause and effect and discrete
sound and sight, between the centre and the margin between unity of time
and space and a dispersed pixelated environment."
started as anti military. Socially-committed theatre-groups started challenging
the politically and culturally repressive military regime. Ajoka is such
a theatre group addressing social and political concerns. For evolving
a performance idiom they use indigenous language and culture, besides experiments
to link contemporary reality with traditional and folk forms.
Padma Jayaraj is a freelance journalist and a regular contributor to www.narthaki.com