Cover pic source: Metawards.com
Our epics have been a source of Indian theater since forever. A whole lot of folk theater as well as classical forms such as Jatra and Kathakali have drawn heavily from Ramayana and Mahabharata. Many centuries down the line, these great ballads still inspire the right side of the brain. Consequently we have seen a host of theatrical works based on Indian mythology and epics.
Of late there is a shift in focus. Rather than the main characters of the epics, the limelight is now on lesser known heroes. Contemporary works explore the humane side of these characters. META this year had a fair share of offbeat works based on the epics. One of the first plays that we watched was Bhima, a production from Our Theatre, Bangalore. It was a one act play by two casts – Vivek Vijaykumaran, also the script-writer and choreoprapher, and Sachin Gurjale. The play explored the softer side of the second Pandav, Bhima. What made him the gentle giant that he was? His inner side, tribulations, inner strides, joy, sorrows and so on.
The combination of a variety of performing styles were brought together to make this play an absolute delight. Modern acting techniques were merged with Kutiyattam, a traditional Sanskrit theatre style from Kerala. Kutiyattam movements were used to recreate various animals that Bhima, played by Vijaykumaran, came across. The result was a mind boggling visual as well as intellectual experience and a even a child would be able to make out whether the actor was depicting an elephant, a snake or a crocodile. Kudos to director Anitha Santhanam and her team for such brilliance.
Vijaykumaran is a thespian to the core. Even though parts of the script were in Malayalam, it was not difficult to make out want the actor was saying what was being depicted. The supporting cast Gujrale beautifully under played his role. His skills as percussionist came to fore as he continuously played the drum, the main soundtrack in the play. He has won the well deserved award for the best original soundtrack in META 2017.
The other pieces in this genre that we have watched spellbound during META 2017 are Elephant in the Room and Mahabharata. META shows that there’s no dearth of inspiration in India’s rich repertoire even after 2500 years of Mahabharata. Bhima has made us crave for more from the Our Theatre team.