Its world theatre day.
I am looking back on my own journey through theatre.
Having a mother whose unfulfilled dream was arangetram, she insisted that I learnt Bharatnatyam and did my vidwat. My only claim to independence is that I refused to the arangetram this remains a bone of contention between us.
I remember crafting our first play ever. My friend Jo (I refrain from using her given name as it infringes on her privacy) and I who had parents who let us read voraciously had a guide the “Amarachitrakatha” our dialogues, and scene play came right out of it.
From there came amateur theatre with stalwart directors like Nagesh, and Udyavara Madhava Achar in theatre, Guru Shridhar Hande in Yakshagana. Workshops by eminent people would organized by MrsT.A.Pai, I have forgotten her name now, but she exposed us to Gaeta Jana, K.V. Subbing, B.V.Karanth.
Indian theatre has been the general area I have been working with since 2000 of which Sanskrit theatre dominates.
Of them it is Bhasa who has the lion’s share.
Bhasa is by and large a very reclusive author almost forgotten. Though references to him are made in Kalidasa’s Malavikagnimitra and Rajashekhara’s Kavyamimasa. His plays were discovered in the early 20th century. In 1909 Pandi Anandalvar discovered his plays in Mysore. Then T.Ganapathi shastri came up with 13 of plays used in Koodiyattam. Of all these Dootavakyam was the only manuscript found intact.
To me the uniqueness of Bhasa is that he does not really go by the dictates of Natyashastra, either he was a rebel, or lateral thinker or he was before the times of Natyashastra. For example natyashastra prohibits physical violence yet Urubhangam not only contains physical violence it is also pivotal to it
Kaikeyi of Prathima Nataka comes across as a wise and farsighted woman, who is willing to endure ill-fame for a greater good. Like the Vasavadutta of Swapna Vasavadutta, who is willing to go through hardships for a greater good? We also have a Sita who is very strong and takes a stand.
Madhyamavyayoga was in a lighter vein with the middle child syndrome being acted upon at various levels. It is interesting here that he is two heroes, Bhima the veera hero, and Ghatokacha also a veera hero. The conflict is between the values of the two societies the Rakshasa and the Arya. While Hidimba plays the bridge between the cultures.
Coming to Karnabharam, this was probably the most difficult one I worked with. There are no female characters here. The conflict of power play, social hierarchy, and illegitimacy plays.
Swapna vasavadutta being the first play I was involved with, my focus was on the elements of natyashastra, the poorvaranga, the mangalacharan, etc.
As we traversed through the plays, somewhere the plays being found in Kudiyattam, and then Mysore. Duryodhana’s story being told in Urubhangam, the characterization of Kaikeyi in Prathama Natakam, somehow talks of society that was less judgemental.
It also has been reflecting on lot of things like random dots, the temple of Duryodhana at Kerala, the temple dedicated to Ashwathama at Trivandrum. The south being Matriarchal and Matrilineal. Probably it is easier for me to empathize and work with Bhasa.
I am really looking forward to recreating Urubhangam and Dootvakyam. Maybe I should look at one Bhasa Nataka an year.