Theatre

Dancing with the deity

Single minded devotion: A scene from the play “Meera”

Single minded devotion: A scene from the play “Meera”  

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Sohaila Kapur’s “Meera” and “Sohbat” took the audience on a lyrical spiritual journey

For a true seeker of spirituality, the materialistic world is a shackle that he will break open to find Him within. The two plays — “Meera” and “Sohbat” — staged by Arts Unlimited, a newly formed group by Raghav Subramaniam at the Epicentre, Gurugram, recently brought alive the journey of Meera and Rumi – and his spiritual mentor Shams. The offstage music, imaginative use of multimedia and acting style imparted to the production lyrical beauty and lucidity, stirring the audience emotionally.

Both the plays are written by Neena Wagh, who has used distinctly different languages in different plays to capture the milieu and culture in which the action is set. The plays are directed by Sohaila Kapur, the multi-faceted theatre artist, with remarkable sensitivity. The evening opens with the presentation of Meera on a bare stage. A chair is placed on the left space of the stage on which Meera’s husband Rana sits and on the upstage Meera and the idol of Krishna interact with one another. In a grim atmosphere, the conflict between Meera and her husband is enacted. The husband is full of anguish over the manner Meera does not follow the conventional duties expected of a Rajput Princess married to a ruling Rajput clan. Rana’s family members are vehemently critical of Meera who devotes her time in the devotion of Krishna, dances with the idol, declaring Him her lord.

Voice against Sati

She even refuses to worship the family deity. Rana dies in the battle field fighting, heroically. Meera braves relentless torture and persistent humiliation and conspiracy to poison her but nothing stops her from her deep devotion to Krishna. As the tradition demands of a Rajput wife to commit Sati when her husband dies but Meera bluntly refuses to follow the tradition.

The chair placed on the left stage and the idol of Krishna upstage acquire metaphorical meaning. Under constantly looming threat from Rajput ruling clan, Meera worships Krishna and dances with him ecstatically. The recitation of bhajans composed by Meera and musical tunes from offstage and the subtle lighting create magical effect on the stage.

Arti Nayyar as Meera and Koustav as Krishna give moving performances, offering fascinating dance sequences. Arun Kumar as Rana expresses the inner anguish of a husband whose wife defies all the social and religious conduct expected of a married woman of Rajput clan.

Changing perspective

Actors enacting a scene in the play “Sohbat”

Actors enacting a scene in the play “Sohbat”  

The second piece of the evening was “Sohbat” which depicts the encounter between Shams, a Sufi saint and Persian poet and Rumi, an Islamic intellectual patronised by the court and has high status in society.

The confrontation is initially hostile but gradually opens the eye of Rumi to divinity and universal love for Him. Shams initiates him into the world of dervish after he teaches him in seclusion for 40 days. He finds all material things and luxury meaningless, stops functioning as a high court dignitary, leaves home, wandering as a Sufi and Persian poet, singing of love, equating it with divine.

The play unfolds on a bare stage with minimal properties to reflect the luxurious life Rumi led before he met his spiritual teacher, Shams. The character of Sutradhar comments on the stages of spiritual growth of Rumi and on the complete transformation of his vision. Sutradhar also reacts to the worried wife of Rumi who is utterly at a loss to find the change in the life of her husband and his utter neglect to his worldly duties. The offstage music, inspired by Persian vocal and instrumental musical forms, contribute to convey spiritual vision of Persian Sufi saints and the depth of their love steeped in divinity.

Neeraj Yadav as Rumi and Arun Kumar as Shams act with fluidity and intensity imparting to their portrayal emotional depth and inner peace of Sufi saints. Arti Nayyar as Sutradhar moves on the stage in a stylistic manner, commenting on the theme and interacting with the wife of Rumi in a satirical tone with the touch of comic. Vaani Vyas as the wife of Rumi acts effectively to convey the pain of a wife whose husband abruptly forgets about his duty towards his family who finally follows the path of her husband.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 7:00:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/dancing-with-the-deity/article30115412.ece

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