The musical About Ram is a human-centric, tragic love story narrated effortlessly by Katkatha theatre
The Ramayana has been interpreted and reinterpreted for a long time now, and its different versions are spread across space and time. Katkatha theatre’s About Ram is about as different as it gets - in the best way possible. What must have begun as an ambitious project for puppeteer Anurupa Roy and animator Vishal Dar, translated into an effortless production that flowed easily from one scene to the next and from one medium to the other. Inspired by a Balinese version of the Ramayana, Roy and Dar stayed true to its fundamental story but reinterpreted it as a human-centric and tragic love story.
Rama, who was living in exile in the forest with his wife Sita, is distraught when he discovers that she has been kidnapped. Lying on the beach across from Lanka, he relives their life together. His ally Hanuman enters Lanka and observes Sita in Ravana’s garden. He gives her Rama’s ring and, as he explores the area, is caught by guards. Taken to the palace, he sets his tail on fire and with it, the city. Back home, Rama decides to wage war on Ravana and, in the ensuing duel, vanquishes him. Reunited with Sita, he chooses to reject her and occupy his place on the throne, where he proceeds to rule alone.
The four puppeteers breathed life into Rama, Sita and Hanuman. Their deft work culminated in several memorable scenes such as Hanuman flying across the ocean, Rama fighting his inner demons and Sita accepting her husband’s rejection. The Japanese puppets were created with an eye for detail and it showed. But what also stood out, was the visuals. Dar’s beautiful animations were projected onto bamboo blinds to created spellbinding effects. The stage, partitioned into three, was deftly used to create a sense of dimension and space, and to play up the usage of both these media.
Abhijit Bannerjee’s original composition for the production complemented the visual aspects of the performance. Soulful and evocative, the music was an apt accompaniment to the proceedings on stage.
Apart from puppets and animations, the production also utilized masks, shadows and human performers, but so seamless was it that in spite of the characters’ constant morphing from one form to another, the thread of the plot was never lost.
The use of multimedia worked superbly to highlight this, especially in scenes such as when Sita reminisces about Rama, where the troupe used a bunraku puppet, a screen and some animation to achieve splendid effects.
About Ram is a musical unlike any that has come before. Over the span on an hour, four performers worked in tandem to bring to life a classic story of love and loss, and they did this with no dialogue. More importantly, they did it by a merging a three thousand year old tradition with a decades-old one. Watch this unique production for an experience that will stay with you for a long time to come.