Theatre

Upholding the spirit

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To mark the fifth death anniversary of Veenapani Chawla, Adishakti comes with its plays to Bengaluru

It has been five years since one of the pioneers of contemporary theatre Veenapani Chawla, founder of experimental theatre group Adishakti Theatre Arts (Pondicherry), passed away. During these years, her students, Nimmy Raphel and Vinay Kumar have continued Veenpani’s rich tradition and upheld the philosophy of Adishakti. At a time when fame and instant success have become a norm, Nimmy and Vinay stand out for their commitment to theatre and to their mentor.

Five years is a long time. Nimmy and Vinay have risen up to the challengeof running the institution as per the dreams of their mentor. How can one ensure the success of an institution? Nimmy says: “When I came to Adishakti, I came as a dancer who had a certain kind of training from Kerala. Adishakti made me think out of the box and to think for myself, which was a new concept for me. What I see more at this point, is the immense work Veenapani has put behind each of us in order to make us grow as people and as artistes. What I have achieved in these 19 years is because we have had a strong mentor like her.”

Adishakti has honed him at a deeper level, says Vinay. “You may have a love affair for one year with a space, but if that space doesn’t lead to creative growth, then it doesn’t serve its purpose. In Adishakti, though, during the last 25-30 years, I have never felt even a a day pass ordinarily. It was able to create a community, and it triggered an inner growth in me.”

Upholding the spirit

One has to think beyond one’s self, and Veenapani believed that if the institution grows the individual also does. “I don’t have a personal goal,” says Nimmy, “My goal is Adishakti, which is much larger than me. Veenapani encouraged us to make our own work, which was very different from her work at that time.” To allow distinct perspectives function on an equal footing in an institution needs conviction and confidence; Veenapani had that. Nimmy recalls her unique approach with gratitude.

What is it to create work with the constant thought of how to do justice to Veenapani’s work? Nimmy says: “We thought of this period of five years to be the second chapter of Adishakti. Bali (our recent production) happened for me because there was the strong guidance of Veenapani and Vinay . Veenapani was very wise in creating space for second and third generation artistes. Bali is a culmination of all that.”

Vinay adds it is not about replicating what Veenapani has done. “That will be the end of an institution. Each of us are doing creative work even though the language and core is rooted to Adishakti’s philosophy. Also, we are creators, writers, and directors, not just performers. So during these five years, we have re-invented our approach.

That challenge propelled us to think radically . Production is only one aspect of our work, the other challenge is to consolidate our research and share our methodology with actors and acting communities in India and abroad.” He admits that one of the biggest challenges is to create a self-sustainable financial model. As of now, their aim is to transmit the philosophy of Adishakti to future generations.

Adishakti will stage two of its most legendary plays, Ganapati, which premièred in 2000 and Brhannala, which premièred in 1999, at Ranga Shankara. Ganapati will be staged on December 6 and 7 and Brhannala will be staged on December 8. Vinay has been associated with Brhannala close to a decade. Nimmy says: “I remember seeing Brhannala 19 years ago, Vinay, put in a lot of effort at that time, but now it seems seamless. It is nice to see how he has made that transition; usually a performer doesn’t get to stay with a production like this for so long.”

They will also be an exhibition of photos, videos, press clippings, etc, which will be displayed in the foyer of Ranga Shankara. “It will give audiences an idea about Adishakti and the work that has come out of it.”

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 5:33:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/upholding-the-spirit/article30189070.ece

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