Theatre

An interpretation and a tribute

She could be a fighter for environmental justice or a champion of peace. The young man could be the troubled child in any dysfunctional family. And, the father could be everyman, caught in the mesh of materialism and ambition.

Drona, his wife Kripi, and their son, Ashwathama, are in constant conflict over their views on war, wealth and ethics. Easy to relate to, they are three individuals caught in the kind of emotional quagmire that exists in every family. That’s what makes When Things Fall Apart , designed, directed and written by Gowri Ramnarayan, relevant to contemporary times.

The play tackles the enigma that is Drona, the wise sage. Kripi cannot understand why Drona encourages the war, stays silent while Draupadi is disrobed, and is relentlessly tough on their self-deprecating son, Ashwathama.

Venkataraman Balakrishnan fits the role to a T. It is difficult to believe that the same man, who played the idealistic Karna in Rashmirathi a few months ago, has now transformed into the gaunt, ascetic rishi, ridden with self-doubt. His vacant stare into the horizon, while talking about his wife’s aversion for him, is heart-wrenching.

Sunandha Ragunathan brings out the angst of a mother and wife, struggling to get rid of the ghosts of her husband, and the baggage of an agonising son, Ashwathama, cursed with immortality.

Akhila Ramnarayan gives life to Ashwathama, especially in the intense last scene where Ashwathama realises he doesn’t have a place in his mother’s world.

To the poet’s abode

An orgy of a palpitating hill of naked idli s imagery (from the Arun Kolatkar poem) awaits us with Dark Horse . This scene, where three dancers perform what looks like an item number, captures the irreverence of Kolatkar, the poet the play pays tribute to. The play is a fictionalised narrative of an inquisitive Tamil journalist (Akhila Ramnarayan) meeting her favourite, cantankerous, bi-lingual Marathi poet.

The dance, music and short skits work well together, bringing out the eccentricity and irreverence of Arun Kolatkar.

Yohan Chacko, who plays Kolatkar, owns that lazy poetic drawl. He’s clearly a man in love with words, as he reads the poems with zeal, relishing each metaphor and imagery. He actually makes the poetry sound like music.

The stage design is minimalistic in both plays. Props are cheeky and imaginative. For instance, the tree in the forest is made of yards of green cotton saris.

Clever lighting that conjures up a forest adds a surreal touch. Especially, when Kripi is haunted by the ghost of Drona.

B Charles, who is behind the thoughtful lighting for both productions, deftly combines event lights with regular theatre lights to balance vibrancy on stage with the pensive mood.

Praveen Sparsh plays around five percussion instruments over the course of the production, including mridangam, cajun and kanjira for When Things Fall Apart . The mridangam beats signal mounting tension.

The guitar and wind chime highlight vulnerable moments. Savita Narasimhan’s Carnatic raga alapanas for Dark Horse lend an emotive feel to the poetry renderings. And, then there’s the memorable image of Kolatkar, bathed in blue light, playing saxophone and guitar to his heart’s content: a way to acknowledge the writer’s “not-so-known” love for jazz.


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Printable version | May 16, 2022 5:08:05 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/an-interpretation-and-a-tribute/article19149251.ece