The raw and real world of theatre


While there were no dialogues in the dance-drama Karuppu, the emotions, messages and moods conveyed spoke volumes

A few hundred people had gathered in the auditorium of Clusters Media Institute on a chill Saturday evening. The stage was bare with just a rope hanging on one side. A translucent screen was the back drop. The setting was minimalistic.

When I first heard the title of this production I wondered what Koumarane Valavane, who conceptualised and directed it, had in mind. ‘Karuppu’ could mean anything and the images that came to my mind were darkness, evil, mystery, the darkness of human relationships, jealousy, passion, helplessness and the many powerful emotions that lead to destruction of relationships .

According to the brochure, Karuppu was a non-verbal dance-drama representation of the movements and inter-play of energies — of the Purusha and Prakriti — that are the cause of creation and destruction of the universe. The gods in Indian mythology are depicted as dark skinned or black to indicate something that is immeasurable, unfathomable, and limitless like the dark depths of the ocean and the black hole which cannot be penetrated with light. It could also mean rituals associated with dark energies.

When the screen rose, a young woman was seated on a low stool. Two other women entered and began to anoint her as if in preparation for a ritual. At first it seemed like a coming of age ceremony, common in Indian households. But the powerful melancholy background score indicated what was to follow. We were watching the girl being prepared to be sacrificed, harking back to Iphigenia from Greek mythology.

The raw and real world of theatre

The next scene was a sequence of vigorous movements — almost acrobatic yet graceful and agile — represented a man and a woman wooing each other. The aggressive and passionate movements and poses represented the carnal instincts and the rage of the woman. The woman being dragged around by the black cloth covering her face was extremely well conceived. The couple in turmoil being swept away and dragged into the ocean of darkness, struggling to survive, was a powerful image.

Then there was the scene where Ophelia drowns. The blue river and the movement of water was conveyed by the aid of lighting. The illusion of the flow of water changing from calm to turbulent and finally engulfing Ophelia was dramatic and brilliant. The appearance of Kali, surrounded by howling wolves that bring her flesh as offering, was a gripping imagery of death and destruction.

The different narratives from Greek and Indian mythology were seamlessly strung together with skilful and powerful movements, an evocative soundtrack, simple yet magical set design and lighting. All these elements came together to ensure that this make this non-verbal theatre spoke to its audience. We could hear the dialogues.

Even those who could not identify the characters could connect with them emotionally at a subconscious level.

Karuppu was an experience. The effect of darkness, light and silence created an ethereal atmosphere that was almost unreal yet utterly raw and real.

Karuppu was presented by Udalveli Arts Foundation, Clusters Media Institute and Indianostrum Theatre Puducherry.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 10:45:45 PM |

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