Purusha Sukhta is interesting as an experiment. It moves away from established ideas of theatre.
The Purusha Sukhta, a hymn from the Rig Veda, has found a place in all the Vedas. In what can be termed as a unique experiment, this hymn which describes the spiritual unity of the universe, was recently brought to stage. This unique effort was made possible by Abhijnana – bringing to stage an ancient text that hardly lends itself to visual imagination is quite a task.
Why Purusha Sukhta? I placed this question before J. Sreenivasa Murthy who has been teaching Sanskrit for the last four decades. Making Sanskrit studies contemporary has been his chief area of interest. It’s because of this reason that he refuses to be slotted as a teacher of Sanskrit and is constantly throwing past truths into the testing fires of the present. This is evident from the questions he raises in his work, Aa Mukha.
Purusha Sukhta was so far restricted to just reading, and by its very nature rings with a musical resonance. Hence, Abhijnana has refused to call their effort “theatre”, instead they call it “pictorial appearance of music”. This entire stage production is J. Sreenivasa Murthy’s brainchild. Along with him in this experiment are Joseph John, Charan C.S. and Vasudev.
To watch and review Purusha Sukhta is a wrong way of approaching it. To watch it as a process and thereby find what the outcome of such an exploration would be seems more appropriate. Did the production communicate the Purusha Sukhta to me? Or did it leave the text far behind and just create a rich world of visuals? Or did it leave everything to the audience who could construct the text depending on their individual ability to understand?
Perhaps the idea behind this production itself was to allow the audience encounter a whole lot of questions. To defy well-established models of theatre craft and to set out in search of new texts is our endeavour, Abhignana team declared before the production went on stage.
The entire production rests on the chanting of Purusha Sukhta. Since it renders the Kannada translation of Purusha Sukhta intermittently, it becomes inevitable for the audience to depend on the visuals. Making its visuals rich added a new dimension and gave strength to the play.
That work of art which helps us understand the creation of the universe, its enormity and its mysteries is Purusha Sukta. Hence, it could be Tejaswi’s Carvalho or G.S. Shivarudrappa’s poem by the same name, Purusha Sukhta. The play, by using gizmos of today’s world like mobile, i-pad, nano, god’s particle, took its interpretation up by several notches and contributes hugely to the success of the production.
For an audience who is uninitiated to Purusha Sukhta, the play is a hard nut to crack. But it has made effective use of forms like kalaripayattu, kodiyattam, mallakambha, chchau, and Charan and Vasudev duo have made use of the stage space as if it were a toy. They have used the entire length and breadth of the stage, creating a grand spectacle.
The fact that Purusha Sukhta is a popular text may have been the reason for Sreenivasa Murthy’s choice. As a text it also talks of the physical, psychological and social dimensions of creation. But if only they had provided an insight into their analysis of the Purusha Sukhta, it would have given the audience a better initiation into the play. Despite these drawbacks, it is a landmark play for its objective to find a new theatrical idiom.
Translated by Deepa Ganesh