An experiment with Kalidasa
A NEW ATTEMPT Pranab Mukherjee has tried Alternative Theatre as a way to express Kalidasa's Kumarasambhava.
India International Centre in New Delhi recently presented Kalidasa's Kumarasambhava or more appropriately, a `trans-creation' of Kumarasambhava by Shri Aurobindo and Ritwik Ghatak in direction, curation and design with a solo performance by media analyst and an exponent of Alternative Theatre movement - Pranab Mukherjee. We know that the road to Alternative Theatre is certainly not a bed of roses and the best of Experimentalist Theatre cannot escape pitfalls of incomprehension even by the learned critics and knowledgeable audiences and certainly the intolerance of the Purists and the Conservatives, who often crucify the unique or different effort as `bizarre.'
Ingmar Bergman, the noted film and theatre director, once opined, "A play is done to create a reaction. As long as one is repelled or attracted by it - it remains a work of art." But how conveniently we are guilty of forgetting this noble maxim.
What is Kumarasambhava? Or shall we say, `Who is one?' To put it precisely, it is a classical poem of 17 cantos and is based on the myth of love and marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati culminating in the birth of their son Kumara. The classic ends with Kumar's heroism as he takes on the demon taraka (take your pick Bush or Laden ).
Suggests the radically imaginative Pranab in his understanding of the rich sub-text of Kalidasa, "He is more of a bard of protest than just a bard of sublime verses.'
Pranab's production combined elements of installation techniques, Purulia Chhau minus ghungroos, performing arts, shadow puppetry, multi-media exploration, autobiographical footage and interplay of modern symbols to create a memory-scape. The ancientness celebrated in all its modernity or so was Pranab's goal the end result? I would like to end this review quoting well-known drama critic Kavita Nagpal's review of my favourite theatre production of Satyajit Ray's `Naayak' - "Kukreja (read Pranab) attempted the impossible and failed impossibly." Long live the Experimentalist!
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