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Exploring a sense of self

SRAVASTI DATTA
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Theatre Sujay Saple’s Unselfed opened windows to the unexamined self

NEW INTERPRETATIONSA classic example of dance theatre
NEW INTERPRETATIONSA classic example of dance theatre

The self has been the subject of philosophical discourse and novels, in which it has been explored in different ways. The self, in our daily lives, is often sacrificed, compromised, fragmented and lost, even, to cater to the demands of society.

Drawing from personal experience, folktales and Haruki Murakami’s works, theatre artiste Sujay Saple devised Unselfed, which was recently staged at Ranga Shankara. Doing away with a linear narrative, Sujay portrayed the different aspects of the self through dance and movement.

This both worked and didn’t. We are used to form and structure. Deriving meaning from what see or hear is a natural response.

So for those who are used to theatre being presented as a story, Unselfed was too abstract.

But it worked to challenge the audience to think outside of the box. It compelled us into thinking for ourselves instead of someone telling us how to. At different points, the performance evoked feelings of hope, love, shame, regret and pain. The performances touched an emotional chord, which was reflected in the body. My body reacted positively to feelings of joy and winced whenever I saw a character inflicting pain on herself. It pointed to the complex relationship we have with ourselves. At times, we embrace our being, believing in our potential, and at other times, we punish and control it to conform.

At another level, Unselfed is a classic example of dance theatre. The movements were superbly choreographed.

Not a single step was out of the place, not a single beat was missed. The concluding scene in which all the characters come together as a whole was beautiful, not because acrobatic feats were performed, but for the harmony among the actors. Yet again, I felt myself breathing easily, feeling liberated in an inexplicable way.

Unselfed shows that experiences cannot be sufficiently explained through words. That the self cannot be accurately understood intellectually. That the feelings that we have to deal with everyday sometimes go beyond all logic or reason.

SRAVASTI DATTA

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