Theatre

Spurned desires and a curse

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Theatre Nisha’s latest production takes a fresh look at the travails of Arjuna

Questions around female sexuality, social labels and human instincts are what Theatre Nisha’s new production The Curse of Urvashi — written, directed and designed by V Balakrishnan — revolves around. The play is based on the Virata Parva of The Mahabharata, that describes the life of the Pandavas in the final incognito year of their exile.

We know Arjuna as the middle Pandava, who is described in mythology as a great warrior, but each of his major victories comes with deception and trickery. However, there is also an incident that Arjuna is party to, which changes his life perspective completely, and that is the curse of Urvashi. The play focusses on this.

“In this, Virata offers his daughter Uttara as wife of Arjuna, and Arjuna says he has always seen her as a student and daughter. So, he decides to marry her off to Abhimanyu, his son. But, Uttara is in love with Arjuna,” says Balakrishnan. And, similarly, when Urvashi, the celestial dancer approaches him, Arjuna rejects her. “He says how can she, being his great grandfather’s consort be his lover? He looks at her as his mother. That’s when Urvashi curses him so that he loses his manhood and virility.”

The play also explores the lesser- known myth of Urvashi also being the daughter of Arjuna.

Except for one role — that of Krishna, played by Balakrishnan — all other characters are played by women. Slokas from Dhanurveda and other elements from the Gita are used. One can also expect a movement sequence involving the use of therukoothu moves.

Bala says he has left the play open-ended on purpose, like all his other works. “I feel only then, a dialogue is possible. That’s what any epic tries to do. Otherwise, we are trying to sell our ideology whenever we reinterpret a myth. And, when someone like me is involved with society as an educator and actor, just my decision to do a particular play will reflect what I am personally undergoing at that time.”

The Mahabharata has always been a text that has fascinated him, says Bala. “It is abundantly rich; like standing in a diamond mine. As is said in the epic, what is there in The Mahabharata could be found elsewhere, but that not in it cannot be found anywhere else. It is so deep; there is no right or wrong. It is about social order. Gods do base and vile things, while villains end up doing the most beautiful things. It says no good man is entirely good or no bad man is entirely bad. We have got to accept the goodness in each other and survive.”

The cast consists of Meera Sitaraman, Shakthi Ramani, Nithya Ramachandran, V Balakrishnan, Roshini Sridhar, Aparna Kumar, Niveditha and Shivangi Singh. The lights are by Shakthi Ramani/Meera Sitaraman and the music by Sivaralakshmi Maya and Vishwa Bharath.

The play will be staged at Alliance Française of Madras, Nungambakkam on March 23 at 7 pm, and on March 24 and 25 at 3 pm and 7 pm.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 11:31:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/spurned-desires-and-a-curse/article23292933.ece

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