THEATRE Anabhigna Shakuntala brings to stage the imaginations of the poet’s life
What is more tragic than friendship turning into love? So wonders Kali, in the days before he becomes Kalidasa, the celebrated jewel of Raja Bhoja’s court. Sitting by the mountains of Kashmir, the orphan Kali wonders how he could bring himself to be in love with Mallika, his childhood friend, his companion while roaming the hills. ‘She is me, how then can I be in love with her?’ his monologue maintains.
This is the story of Kalidasa, his loves, his travails, his inspirations. While writing Anabhigna Shakuntala , playwright K.Y. Narayanaswamy employs sufficient poetic license to draw out a tale of speculative fiction, speaking of Kali, before he attains his suffix. The actors of Prasanga theatre group, under the direction of Prakash P. Shetty, translate well the imaginations of the poet’s life onto the stage, be it the unrequited love that Mallika feels for him or the vengeful arrogance of the haughty princess that leads to his imprisonment or his own longing for the beautiful angel he meets one full moon night in his beloved Kashmir.
Anabhigna Shakuntala is not about Shakuntala and her journey to be united with the forgetful King Dushyanta. That though is the premise the sutradhar wants to work with, when news arrives that Kalidasa the poet has been murdered when he was reading the play Shakuntala to a large gathering. A woman has been accused of and arrested for the crime. The sutradhar, in a bid to understand what really happened, attempts to talk to the woman accused of the murder. Two other women arrive at the scene. What transpires there is an intriguing narrative of Kali in different stage of his life.
As each of the three women talk of how and at what stage they loved Kali the wonderful poet, the other side of the stage heads into flashback mode. With smart play of lighting, stories from the past and their repercussions on the present are revealed. All along, the probable contexts under which Kalidasa must have written his celebrated works are speculated upon. There are subtle applications of Shakuntala’s despair to the author’s own life.
The ring that was Shakuntala’s husband’s token of love is weaved into Kalidasa asking his lover for her ring, something to remember her by. Like in his play, the ring in his life creates much havoc and tragedy. It is his longing, his misery, his yearning for his land and his love that inspires him to create his plays and poems. These creations leave a trail of jealousy, revenge and politics behind.
Anabhigna Shakuntala ’s jewel on the crown is the music by Narayana Raichur. Each song enhances the complex ideas and emotions of human lives. All the boxes for dance, drama, romance, tragedy, comedy and the rest of the navarasas are quickly checked off. What emerges is an intriguing, entertaining performance by the Prasanga team.