Kaaladivya strings together stories of oppression from three different points of time and three different cultures.
H.N.Kalakshetra appeared unlike itself that evening. The audience sat with their back to the stage because the acting area had been shifted to the rear end of the auditorium. The occasion was the staging of Kaaladivya, composed and directed by the well known Manipuri couple, Kanniahlal and
Sabithri for Ninasam's Tirugaata. The Repertory finds it more practical to bring its plays in two instalments these days and is now on the last lap of its second tour, a shorter one, with just this one play.
Kaaladivya strings together stories of oppression from three different points of time and three different cultures. The first story, from the mythical past, is of Daksha, who refused to acknowledge his daughter because she married Siva, a member of the lower class. He performs a yajna to which, all gods, except Siva, are invited. Dakshayini is humiliated when she comes uninvited to her father's house and jumps into the sacrificial fire in protest. While Daksha represents the arrogance of heavenly beings or upper classes, Dakshayini emerges as the spokesperson for the less privileged mortals.
We enter the realm of history with the second story, that of Spartacus, the first Roman slave to have protested against the inhuman treatment of slaves by the ruling class. The third story, set in modern Manipur, gives a graphic account of the atrocities committed by the Indian army, posted in
the state, to put down insurgency. It celebrates the heroism of Chittaranjan who burnt himself in protest.
Though the stories seem to have been yoked together by force (and the interpretation of the myth appears somewhat far-fetched) they serve the purpose of exposing the inhumanity of the ruling classes through the ages and across cultures. In all three instances, the violence is backed by state
power. The intensity of the pain suffered by the victim's increases with each episode. From the mental torture of the first one, we move to physical violence of the slave drivers in the second one. What makes the last episode even more terrifying is our familiarity with the forms of torture, our
identification with the victims and the realisation that this is happening in a democratic society like ours.
In each one of the stories the central character willingly courts death and becomes a martyr for the cause of freedom and equality. Sabithri and Kanniahlal make their ideological stand absolutely clear. Though theatre for them is a part of their struggle against oppression, they do not ignore the
aesthetics of it. The play has the beauty of a slow dance and draws its power from the way body movement, breath and rhythm are used. Powerful visuals are created with minimal help from sets and props. Drumbeats and rhythmic breathing communicate as much as words do. Silences are used most effectively.
Tirugaata artistes may not have the natural grace of Manipuri dancers, but they do a commendable job. They move in perfect harmony, sing well and are very expressive in their speech. The entire space remains charged with their energy from the first drum-beat to the last.
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