THEATRE Girish Karnad’s Nagamandala will be staged in Bengali tomorrow
As part of the annual festival of Ranga Shankara Samprati, Girish Karnad’s Nagamandala will be staged in Bengali by Ballygunge Swapna Suchna Theatre Group, Kolkata, directed by Abanti Chakraborty. Nagamandala tells the story of Rani, who in a bid to win the affection of her husband, Appanna mixes a magical root in the curry he is about to eat. Instead of Appanna, Naga, a cobra, eats the curry, and falls in love with Rani. Naga, who has the ability of taking on a human form, visits Rani as her husband. But Rani is unaware of this. She becomes pregnant with Naga’s child. When she informs Appanna about it, he accuses her of adultery; she is forced to prove her innocence before the Panchayat.
Abanti Chakraborty, the director, translated the play to Bengali. “ Nagamandala is one of my favourite Indian plays,” says Abanti over phone. “I first read the play in 2000, when I was pursuing my Masters, and was undecided about taking up theatre full time. I read the play many times after that. Then I got into theatre full time in 2005 and continued to read the play.” It was in 2011 that Abanti mulled over the idea of directing the play and, thus began her journey of doing so. Yet she felt that the time was not right. “Between 2010 and 2013, I had directed about three plays. I kept reading Nagamandala, but I wasn’t happy with the way the play was shaping up.” The right time came in 2013, when she was selected to stage the play as part of the annual festival of Ranga Shankara, Samprati. The festival provides a platform for young theatre practitioners to re-interpret Girish Karnad’s works. Abanti says she hasn’t diverted too much from the text. “I have brought in my own interpretations regarding the position of women in society.”
Abanti says there are a lot of theatrical elements in the play that a director can explore. “I have experimented with physicality in the play; the actors use their body a lot. I have also reworked the structure of the realistic space, so to speak. For the sets, I have only used four pillars and a few ropes.”
Nagamandala will be staged at Ranga Shankara on October 20 at 3.30 pm and 7.30 pm.