Futility of all wars
Ramachandra Deva's play worked at various levels, speaking of the contemporary times even as it spoke of a distant past
At the festival of Regional Resource Centre of National School of Drama (NSD), Rangasiri an amateur theatre group in Hassan, staged Rathamusala. This play by the noted Kannada playwright Ramachandra Deva enthralled the audience at the Kala Bhavan.
The historical play set in 493 B.C. speaks of the attempts of Magadha king Ajaatashatru in devastating Vaishali, which was a vibrant democratic country. Rathamusala, a unique war chariot, represents the discreet attempts of Ajaatashatru to usurp Vaishali. Rathamusala and Shilakantaka are the two powerful weapons of Vaishali and these two have failed every attempt of Magadha to seize Vaishali.
When Rathamusala moves in the war field, it attacks enemies with the swords attached to it and nobody can guess its movement, as it is difficult to trace who is driving the vehicle. Ajaatashatru sends Vassakara, a secret agent to secure the blue print of Rathamusala and at the same time to impair the democratic system of Vaishali. The strength of Vaishali is its gold mine and Vassakara after gaining confidence of the people, becomes in-charge of gold mine and finally succeeds in incapacitating Vaishali. Ajaatashatru puts Vassakara in prison after utilising his services.
The multi-dimensional play, like Girish Karnad's Tughlaqh, speaks of the cruelties of the war-mongering first world countries all set to devastate the third world.
At the same time, the play also focuses on tragedies, both at the personal and community levels. The play delineates the downfall of Vaishali because of the innocence of people like Chetaka (head of democracy) in phases. Rathamusala, while pointing to the misfortune of Vaishali, also portrays the tragedy of people like Vassakara and his wife Mallika.
The unfortunate thing was that even though the play has numerous references to the present, it failed in interpreting things to the audience and got stuck in the historical past. Though it is not an easy task to present this multi-layered text with all its connotations through visuals, director Krishna Kumar Narnakaje of Rangayana, Mysore, invested all his efforts in making the play appeal to the audience. He prepared the artistes for the play, after conducting a month-long theatre workshop.
The play, replete with visual elements, had set design by H.K. Dwarakanath. Sagai Raju's lighting stumbled in a few places. Nandini's costume design was apt.
While Chitralekha suited her role as Mallika through her facial expressions and body language, Jayashankar struggled to live up to the expectations of people as Vassakara, a pivotal character in the play.
Music was a disappointment. Songs by Shishunala Sharifa, A. Ramamurthy and Mutturaj Gourani supported the play to certain extent. It was a production that left an indelible mark on the minds.
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