Nala and Nila, the former credited as the engineer of the Rama Sethu (bridge), and the latter, the vanara chieftain, are narrating the all-too-familiar story of The Ramayana to the background of operatic tunes. Accompanying them are Jambavan, the bear; Harini, the doe; Mayuri, the peacock; Jatayu, the vulture; among many animals that are often sidelined in what is usually considered the tale of Rama, Sita and Ravana. But this time, it is different. Animals come under the spotlight as narrators and roleplay artists.
Crea-Shakthi’s take on the epic is aptly named OpeRamayana , as it alternates the narration with opera singing. The art of storytelling thus gets a different spin in this production. Originally conceptualised with Ideas of Joy (producer), OpeRamayana travels to Coimbatore as well. Speaking of the genesis of this unheard-of format, Dushyanth Gunasekharan, ita director and script writer, says, “I think it is very important to take stories of mythology and tell them in a format that is not preachy, which allows for the essence of the story to subtly make its way into the minds of children.”
Every song, from the ‘Nama Ramayana’ to the ‘Hanuman Chalisa’, will have pure operatic interludes, making them seem no longer like sermons. “Children now have many things to entertain them, so why would they sit and listen to a simple retelling of any text? We are looking at reinventing how we tell stories.” Animals pose as storytellers, often roleplaying as human characters. Mayuri becomes Sita, Nala becomes Hanuman and a pantomime ensues with Ravana, as members from the audience join in. Needless to say, a lot of physical theatre is involved.
The narrative takes the climax up to the building of the bridge, to draw parallels with today’s social scenario, where bridging gaps is necessary more than ever, he says. “The story of good winning over evil is a binary, and should be portrayed in a manner that allows them to interpret it contextually.”
Since animal characters are at the fore, the story also weighs heavily on the environment. “We are giving the agency back to animals, and realise that their environment is of prime importance to them.”
OpeRamayana will be performed at Curioplay, Alwarpet at 4.30 pm and 6.30 pm on Sunday. Tickets are on BookMyShow.