Theatre: S.K. Misro’s perception of Ramayana had the audience riveted.
Theatre veteran S.K. Misro staged his latest production Ramayanamlo Raayani Putalu (unwritten pages in the Ramayan) at Kalavani auditorium in Port Stadium, Visakhapatnam recently. Scripted and directed by S.K. Misro, the narrative sought to portray the psychological conflict of the different characters in the epic. The two-hour long performance by the artistes of Bahurupa Nata Samkhya endeavoured to interpret the epic on an unfamiliar count. It was not the theme but the way Misro presented it that made it stand out.
It portrayed the agony of the feminine mind through the characters of Ahalya, Kaikeyi and Urmila besides Rupavati and Lavanyavati that Misro created as the grand daughters of Mandara, while the stage craft and palace intrigues depicted the exile of Rama.
The theme and its treatment, save some characters, admits Misro, have no basis on the original or any of its umpteen vernacular versions of Ramayana. It was purely his perception. The original, he says, was silent on raison d'être for Mandara to poison the ears of otherwise good Kaikeyi, when Dasaratha declared Rama’s coronation. Contrary to the prevailing social order of polygamy, Lord Rama championed monogamy and the faithful Urmila remained in the palace and let Lakshman go to the forest along with Rama and Sita. These, says Misro, baffle him whenever he reads or hears the Ramayana and he chose to weave a theme around these aspects to provide dramatic answers to the questions.
The play opened with Sutradhari, a modern man contemplating the epic, who takes us to the times of the epic and straight to the royal court, where Lord Rama in his regal position witnesses a classical dance recital. Cut to the palace garden we see Rupavathi bitten by the bug of love babbling about Rama in a trance. She accosts Rama in the garden and asks him to accept her love. Unable to stand his firm refusal she commits suicide.
Her sister Lavanyavati loves Rama’s personal bodyguard, and his refusal of her love leads her to kill him. Consequently, Mandara vows to see Rama exiled from Ayodhya. In these two characters Misro attempts to juxtapose the two extreme tendencies of people in love.
Petrified Ahalya, who springs back to life on the touch of Rama’s foot, puts sage Viswamitra in the dock on the male chauvinistic practices of society. Ahalya, here, presents a tough and valid feministic view of the social order. Deeply convinced Rama supports her point and commits himself to monogamy.
In the course of the narrative, replete with dramatic twists and turns, Rama opts for peripatetic life in the wilderness and requests Kaikeyi to see to it that his volition to be away from royal life translates into reality. Kaikeyi unwillingly obliges Rama. Fed up with palace intrigues to place him on the throne, Bharata leaves for his grandsire’s palace. Urmila deeply contemplative of spiritual and philosophical importance of life lets Lakshman go with Rama so that she can concentrate on her spiritual pursuits.
Misro’s nifty adaptation of the Brecht technique of alienation that prevents the audience from getting emotionally involved through jerking reminders of the artificiality of the theatrical performance, ensured a seamless and taut treatment of the theme. Though the narrative can cause a few eyebrows to be raised, the huge response to it reiterated the fact that regardless of incorporations and interpolations, the strength of epics lie in their intrinsic emotive appeal. Light and shade effects and a riveting tempo kept the audience attentive all through.