Theatre Nisha’s production of The Fire and the Rain was enthralling

Theatre Nisha’s run of late has been quite the mythological journey. From Yayati in December 2012 to The Fire and The Rain during Ranga Shankara’s Samprati festival, the troupe came full circle with plays by Girish Karnad. Initially titled Agni Mattu Male, The Fire and The Rain was written in 1995. It is based on an anecdote from the Mahabharata wherein a king performs a fire sacrifice to get rains for his drought-struck land. As the seven-year sacrifice nears completion, a series of events threaten to snowball into a devastating disruption.

While the play offered much scope for performance with themes such as sibling rivalry and caste hierarchy; the production went above and beyond it. Directed by Balakrishnan Venkataraman, the 90-minute performance was enthralling, powered by impressive performances, strong dialogue, and a tight plot. Portrayed as a Greek tragedy, the play envisaged Aristotelian poetics, with an especially well-crafted rise of action.

Driven by dialogue delivered perfectly by talented performers, The Fire and The Rain was visually and aurally brilliant. Each scene played out like a tableau with the actors’ movements fine tuned as in dance. And to supplement this, melodious voices rang out into the auditorium, serving sometimes as scene transition and sometimes as mood enhancer, even as acoustic music evolved from anklets and weapons, pots and footsteps.

With the performers taking centre stage, the stage was left bare of sets and with minimal props, leaving the lights to support the performance. And what a performance it was! From Yavakiri, the wronged cousin out to seek vengeance to Aravasu, the innocuous brother caught in the crossfire, every character’s innermost driving passion was on display.

Watch the play for the powerful handling of the script and for scenes like Yavakiri and Vishaka’s reunion. Paravasu’s externalisation of his inferiority complex and Nithilai’s rejection of caste and gender roles are other noteworthy scenes. The production overall is a testament to how well Karnad’s works continue to translate to stage, more than half a century after he began writing.