Preview Theatre

Falling through the earth

When the stage becomes a battleground between the planet and man

Indian philosophy’s traditional connect with elemental forces is given a contemporary spin in Bhu, a performance that combines Kalaripayattu, dance and music to create a dialogue between man, energy and earth. The overarching story is of a man eager to learn how to become a powerful warrior from a great Kalari master, but taught instead, to fight his inner demons to reach a place of oneness with earth.

This multi-sensory performance has been produced in and around Pondicherry by the convergence of multiple creators including Auroville’s Ritam, a unit that focuses on the “yoga of the earth”, Lakshman Gurukkal’s Kalarigram School for Kalaripayattu and Ayurveda, and The Water Carriers Company founded by Thierry Moucazambo and Philippe Pelen Baldini.

Elemental attraction

Baldini and Moucazambo originally ran the Reunion-based dance and theatre company Theatre Talipot. Interestingly, their present company’s name is derived from an acclaimed Theatre Talipot show titled The Water Carriers, so memorable at the Singapore Arts Festival (2000). This segues easily to the question, why the move from water to a new element?

“The emergency to reconnect with the Earth,” replies creative director and choreographer Baldini. “The condition of the planet made us want to create this work, which is a tribute to Mother Earth.”

The hour-long experimental performance features six performers on stage: Kalari warrior-artists Nikhil Varagiri, Swaroop Kanan, Prakash Sathiya, Madhu Jayamurthy; performer and Kalari music specialist Suresh Kalyath; and Moucazambo. The extremely physical yet deeply intuitive performance is accompanied by recorded and live instrumental music.

Collaborative effort

Kalarigram’s founder Gurukkal says that the improvisational process of working with the Water Carriers’ team was one of mutual exchange, “opening possibilities for creating a contemporary expression of Kalaripayattu practice and performance”. The Kalari performers also had to move outside their comfort zone to incorporate new elements of performance such as expressing emotions and speaking text. Performer Varagiri says, “The biggest difficulty lay in moving from the warrior to the performer… I learnt to accept my emotions and to express them in an artistic way.”

The choreography will show this emotional journey, as well as breath-taking gymnastic abilities. Baldini adds, a touch mystically, “As they say in Kalaripayattu, we are looking for this experience of the body ‘becoming all eyes’.” This is a state of perfect alertness and sensitivity, when the body is connected to the environment and nature — and in Bhu, to the audience as well. Given that Kalari is not directly used in war today, the stage is the “battleground” for the performers to display their mettle.

Bhu will be presented by Alliance Francaise of Madras on May 6 2018, at Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall, from 7.30 pm. Free entry.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 8:53:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/falling-through-the-earth/article23770454.ece

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