An impressive performance of ‘Naga Mandala' by Nishumbita Theatre Group.

Girish Karnad's English version of Nagamandala was staged at Ravindra Bharati recently by Nishumbita Theatre Group. Its director Rammohan Holagundi's theatre experience reflected in his handling of this production against the backdrop of just two sets — one, a derelict temple with a flickering flame from a small fire and a small tenement where a couple lives. The play takes place as the story gets narrated by an erudite woman to a playwright at this temple site.

It opens with a group of children, shown as symbolic torch bearers at this temple, also serving as a chorus group. A writer sits at the temple where a learned woman arrives and starts narrating a story at his request. It is the story of a young bride Rani, neglected by her indifferent husband Appanna, who even locks her up inside the house everyday when he goes out.Knowing this, an old and curious woman Kurudavva, carried always by her son Kappanna on his back, gives a herb to Rani and asks her to give it to her husband along with the food. She assures her that the potion will win the love of her husband. But vexed with her husband's cruelty, Rani drops the potion into a snake pit. A cobra living there, vested with magical powers of transforming into human form, consumes the potion and gets attracted to Rani. He begins visiting Rani every night, taking the human form of Appanna and snaring the unsuspecting Rani. Rani becomes pregnant and tells her husband about it. A shocked Appanna starts doubting her fidelity and takes the case to the village head. To prove her innocence, the village head and his men ask her either to put her arm into the snake pit or hold a hot iron rod. She prefers to die by snake bite and thrusts her hand into the burrow. The cobra, to their surprise, comes out and blesses her. The shocked villagers start hailing Rani as a Goddess and even carry her in a palanquin.

Now that the story is complete, the playwright wants to give a happy ending. He and the prime narrator decide to show the snake woven into the long plait of Rani, to show the cobra as a part of her life.

It was an absorbing production. Soumya Ram and Asuthosh played narrator of the story and the playwright respectively. Krishna Madhav portrayed the main role of Appanna and the cobra's human form as well.

His diction was not as clear as that of Rani who gave a brilliant performance. Kurudavva's role in a lighter vein was impressively presented by Mrunal Deo and drew applause. Kiran played her son Kappanna.

The boy Nitesh in the brief role of the dog was interesting. Mastan was the village elder. The pre-recorded background score was pleasing.