Despite the baffling ending, Girish Karnad’s play ‘Bali’ was carried by remarkable set design, music and choreography that remain with the viewer.
A Telugu version of renowned Girish Karnad’s Kannada Play Bali evoked mixed response at Gurajada Kalakshetram Visakhapatnam. Hyderabad-based Janapadam Modern Theatre Repertory staged it with enthusiasm.
The performance was distinctly remarkable for set design, music and choreography.
These, in a way, led to the creation of a period ambience that took the audience into its fold. In fact, it was presented in such a technical expertise that it keeps lingering in the minds of the viewers long after the performance was over. The original, based on a 13th century Kannada epic Yasodhara Charite, deals with the conflict between the concepts of violence and non-violence in religious practices. It highlights non-violence as the paramount attribute of human beings, subscribing to a Jain view that violence in thought is as barbaric as the act of violence itself.
This view forms the spirit of the character of the queen - a Jain Amritavalli.
Having been the queen of a doting king, unable to bear the stigma of being called a lady of barren womb, she commits an act of infidelity with a mahout.
The king, who renounces his native religious preferences and toes the line of the queen appreciating the virtue of nonviolence in Jainism, stands terribly saddened at the betrayal.
Rajamaata, a staunch adherent to native religious practices, advices her son to sacrifice a cock made of dough to the Goddess of her faith as a propitiatory measure to ward off any evil that may befall on the family.
Having committed the symbolic sacrifice, the queen turns hysterical, kills the king and stabs herself to death.
The director and writer Srinivas Denchanala, in his introductory message before the commencement of the performance expressly stated that he had taken liberty with the original, lending a caste dimension to the character of the mahout and also made the play end in tragedy.
Though the changes that he has made in the script remain debatable, Srinivas Denchanala has made a good effort and presented a technically fine performance.
That the queen, whose very way of life was non-violence, who loathes violence even in thought, indulges in a violent act looks a negation of its very purpose and it left the viewers rather baffled.
The script was carried by an able cast of 15 artistes and a team of technicians. The play was hosted by Visakhapatnam Urban Development Aurhority (VUDA).