Theatre

Insightful interpretations

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A recent performance of Beral ge Koral, directed by Prasanna Ramaswamy for students of NSD still carried meaning for the present

The National School of Drama, Bangalore, recently showcased its Annual Production which was directed by the eminent Prasanna Ramaswamy. Kuvempu’s popular play “Beralge Koral” was presented by the students with passion and sincerity. While it was heartening to see even the non-Kannadiga students learn the difficult halekannada lines and render them with clarity it is also commendable that they didn’t modernise the language.

The director has brilliantly decoded the play to show how beautiful works of art always find relevance. The opening and ending of the play had an edge of satire and ironical undertones with the very affluent English speaking girls asking the audience to enjoy the display of tribal art. This set the tone perfectly to the subtexts the were to be unearthed. The corporate exploitation of altruism and use of psychological egoism to use the pain of tribals and the dwellers of the forests (adivasis) was going to be at the heart of this production.

While the many Ekalavyas in this play stood for the innocence and naturally inherited intelligence of the adivasi community, Guru Drona and Ashwatthama represented the conscience constantly fighting and searching for justification of its actions. Arjuna stood for the English speaking intelligentsia and the elitist corporate, majoritarian power houses that only strive for power and satiating their sense of entitlement.

Insightful interpretations

The actors spoke in their mother tongues while portraying the picture of the adivasis as if to make it clear that exploitation was not region specific. Its universality was brought to life when the actors in different languages explained that they inherited the right to live in forests, they considered the animals dwelling with them as siblings and that they worked with nature to understand it. It was stirring to watch them struggling to decipher the logic behind owning land, selling land and skies that belonged to the forests. Whilst the forest dwellers enter the civilised settlements and leave it with no harm, the opposite happens when the civilised folk enter the forests.

It was hilarious to watch Arjuna speak to Ekalavya in a heavily accented English and display his arrogance of power and sense of entitlement. Ekalavya’s mother’s character was played with conviction. When the team had many female actors, the decision to cast a male actor to play Ekalavya’s mother was deliberate. Perhaps to show that gender minorities too are victims of the same apathy and exploitation in a majoritarian system.

A cluster of actors clad in black dhotis stood bare bodied and spoke all the lines that were monologues or contemplative in nature. This beautifully conveyed a sense of collective conscience that had risen above the individuality of the key characters. The Guru is also a victim here. He has to act in a certain way to survive.

And when finally Drona asks Ekalavya to kill a bird in a tree, he refuses to do so. What’s the use of all the power and skill if it is used to exploit the innocent, he asks. In that moment of shame Drona unwillingly asks for the thumb as gurudakshina for the knowledge that he never imparted to this forest dweller. The powerful always demand the sacrifice from the innocent in the name of Honor, Duty and God. Whilst the forest cries, the adivasi offers as sacrifice his sustenance to satisfy the greed of the political economy.

Insightful interpretations

Drona here chants the line “mari ge mari”, “beralge koral”. Ekalavya’s thumb is lying in a pool of blood and Drona has a gory vision of a strong hand that comes and grabs him by the neck. In all our decisions against the natural flow of things, we must realise that it is our own necks at stake!

The set by Adapa was simple and displayed a tribal art like huge painting of the forest ecosystem trapped behind a net . Costumes were neat. Music was discordant but yet had a character of its own. The recorded sounds could have been done away with. With more shows and experience the cast can do more justice to the director’s vision.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 1:35:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/insightful-interpretations/article30039011.ece

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