Apart from providing comic relief, the set and actors of The Yogi and the Dancer made it a memorable show

Jagriti theatre organised a presentation of ancient dramatist Bodhyana’s works, The Yogi and The Dancer. Staged in English, the drama was tweaked to introduce a frame story that involved a reference to the audience and the play that was to follow. A sutradhar and his vidushak are excited at the prospect of making money by staging a play for the audience. They decide to settle on a hasya rasa one, meaning a piece with joyous sentiment. What follows forms the bulk of the production.

When Yamadoota, the forbearer of death takes the life of the wrong Vasanthasena, he attempts to rectify the error. However, in the interval, a yogi and a dancer end up with each other’s soul and chaos ensues. The comedy of errors, in the line of William Shakespeare’s aptly named piece, is soon resolved and order is restored. In the ensuing drama, the characters evolve and come into their own with even the supporting cast developing ancillary storylines. In a play that could have easily veered toward slapstick comedy, this depth of storyline steered the production in an entirely new direction.

The Yogi and The Dancer isn’t your typical play. It transcends the rather staid boundaries of contemporary as well as traditional theatre, finding a sweet spot between the two.

It appeals to modern sensibilities while retaining the semantics and structure of its roots. The musical accompaniments, the basic vastu or plot and the underlying rasa or sentiment of the natak are a throwback to earlier times while the English translation and the frame story lend new dimensions to it.

Music by Sachin Gurjale and choreography by Rukmini Vijaykumar, especially the peacock dance, was engaging. But the real star of the show, apart from the effervescent yogi, was the set. Beautiful painted curtains reflected the ephemeral forest, the site of the action; while cascading white sheets brought it to life.

Of course, it was the actors that held the myriad components of the production together, with Kanchan Bhattacharyya proving to be a scene stealer.

Watch out for the scene where he and Vinod Ravindran provide the audience with a crash course in the nine rasas.

Billed as a comedy, the play more than lived up to this claim. Apart from actual laugh out loud moments, such as when the dancer’s soul takes residence in the yogi’s body in a hilarious resurrection-style scene, the play was a light-hearted and fun entertainer.

There may be lessons in gender stereotypes here but possibly the biggest takeaway is how well our dramatic history lends itself to contemporary enactments.