- A DANCE / THEATER / PUPPETRY PRODUCTION
is based on the well-known tale from the Battle of Kurukshetra, in the
epic, Mahabharata. This war "is often labelled a war for Dharma". But,
Draupadi, the protagonist, who at one stage becomes the representative
of all women all over the world, questions the efficacy of this statement.
She has been made the cause of the war by the patriarchal literature, the
Epic itself. She is called the "Kritya" or the one who caused the war.
Ideologically, this responsibility for the war and conflict being placed
on women is very typical of patriarchy. So, the modern Draupadi, while
protesting against the futility of war, is also exonerating her role in
the eruption of war. Even in this production, Draupadi is shown as partly
responsible for the war. Her desire to take revenge on those who humiliated
her is underscored as the main reason for the war. But, we all know, that
the main reason was the competition and power play that existed between
the Kauravas and the Pandavas, which caused the war. This writer cannot
help wishing that the Draupadi in this production had touched upon this
aspect of the Epic a little more
One of the interesting aspects of this production was the interweaving of the dancers and the puppets and puppeteers. The puppets are visualized as the alter egos of the protagonist. There were different kinds of puppets - stylized as well as figurative puppets, puppet-puppets and human puppets, the dancing puppets as well as static puppets. In fact, the puppetry and the dancing were not well balanced. The puppets tended to overshadow the dancers most of the time. Some more of dance may have energized the production. However, the puppets by themselves instilled new dimensions in this production. The most remarkable puppet was the big white one made of sponge - just a face and two hands - which remained as an installation in the background and moved in wherever needed. The movement of this puppet was especially good. The human puppets were very effective, but their movements were clumsy and could have been choreographed better. The puppet, which disappointed me, was the main "Draupadi" puppet. Its movements were clumsy and manipulated in an obvious manner.
The music was good and created a good ambience for the production. The lighting was good. The other aspect of the production which somewhat negated the whole production was the wordiness of the script. Everything that had to be said was said in the script. The emotions were all conveyed through the voice of the narrator. So, there was very little left for the dancers to communicate. The wordiness of the script tended to give a propagandist, agit-prop touch to the entire production. A fragmented and more suggestive script and a little less literal interpretation by the dancers would have enhanced the production. But, as the producers themselves are treating this as an ongoing and changing piece, Her voice would evolve in a better form soon.
As all experiments,
especially experiments which try to meld different art forms are bound
to have edges in the beginning which have to be refined and smoothened,
Her Voice also has the possibility to change and evolve in a newer and
better form soon.
|Vasanti Sankaranarayanan, is a PhD holder from Madras University on the subject “Malayalam Cinema, Society and Politics of Kerala”. She has translated books from Malayalam to English and vice versa and has written some dance scripts. She is a freelance journalist and art critic.|