Theatre

The making of a rebel

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Madaiah, The Cobbler promises to take you on an intense, emotional journey that ends in catharsis

Tomorrow, you are going to be transported to the fictitious kingdom of Bankapuri through the English play, Madaiah, The Cobbler, directed by Prasanna Ramaswamy, an award-winning theatre professional and filmmaker from Chennai. It will be performed at the eighth edition of Theatre Olympics, organised by the National School of Drama along with the Department of Kannada and Culture. A couple of guddas, nomadic wanderers, are going to tell you a story in the form of music, movements and narration. It is a tale of rebellion told in the form of a play within a play. The plan is to overthrow a fascist king, foil the plans of a vindictive Shani, the god, and unmask a fraudulent monk. The play,scripted by Kannada playwright, HS Shivaprakash, takes on an intense, emotional journey that ends in a catharsis.

The making of a rebel

The narrative is that of good’s triumph over evil. But, it is more than that. One could read it as a way of empowering the marginalised to take the movement of resistance forward. The very fact that the guddas are given the task of telling the story makes them characters with a certain agency. “The subject of caste is being handled from the perspective of people who are empowered,” says Ramaswamy. They are protesting against an evil king, who is out to conquer the sun, moon and the earth, an obvious metaphor of man's destruction of the planet.

The making of a rebel

They make one among them a god, an avatar of Shiva, who is Madaiah, born to cobbler parents. Ramaswamy has ensured that Madaiah has no hegemony over the guddas. There is a playfulness with which the guddas praise him and sing and dance around him. “When you are happy, what do you do? You sing and dance. The guddas experience a joy in making a god out of him. While iconising, I needed to pick up a song from my memory and the Carnatic kriti, Kapali fitted in,” she says.

The making of a rebel

The music is as crucial as the dialogues. In fact, it adds another contemporary dimension to the play, otherwise situated in a folksy, mythological set up. The actors croon Kannada vachanas at one moment and at another, break into a happy rap. ‘Aayiram Karangal Neeti’, a song from Karnan is another highlight. Props, by artist Gurunathan, include curtains with paintings of contemporary city life milling with construction labourers and panel paintings with Indian motifs of elephants and sculptures. Shivaprakash says the play evokes a cultural landscape. And, it could not be more true.

Oscillating between enactment of a story and evocation with metaphors and symbols such as the vachanas reflecting philosopher Basavanna's ethos, English songs and guitar riffs, the play will surely transport you to another time. And, at the same time leave you pondering on human civilisation’s greed and the tyranny of power. The play will be staged at Ravindra Kalakshetra, JC Road, Kumbaragundi, on February 27 at 7 pm. For tickets, visit https://insider.in/madaiah-the-cobbler -2018/event

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 7:39:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/the-making-of-a-rebel/article22844461.ece

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