Theatre

Wholesome threesome

Classic episodes: A scene from “Ratnakar Aadi.”  

A Shakespearean classic given a new fervour, a traditional theatre form re-vitalised and a legendary tale brought to the stage — three plays bringing in the essence of the North East were staged in the Capital this past week.

The National School of Drama brought to Delhi Bhagirathi’s Assamese play “E Nixar Bhromoranga”, Loitongbam Dorender’s “Kao-Kei” — a Moirang Parva presentation from Manipur — and Pranjal Saikia’s Assamese production “Ratnakar Aadi”, as part of the Delhi International Arts Festival.

“E Nixar Bhromoranga,” interprets Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with vigour. The play translated by Dinesh Sharma is nourished with local flavours. Assamese music, full of zest, yet soulful, and a set done up with bamboo and ropes give an English classic the quintessential local stamp. Imaginative lighting and costumes made with thought make this Assamese production an engaging watch. The cast is drawn from the remotest villages of Assam in this workshop production.

“Most of them are on stage for the first time and most are reading Shakespeare for the first time,” said director Bhagirathi. According to her, Shakespeare over time has been given a grave air. The idea is to de-intellectualise Shakespeare and present the play with the simplicity with which the master did. “We have made the play contemporary with local flavours. Shakespeare is not for intellectuals only,” she added.

Bhagirathi and her husband Baharul Islam, both NSD alumni, run the Seagull Theatre Academy in Assam. “E Nixar Bhromoranga” has travelled to villages, and Bhagirathi says it has received a warm response.

“E Nixar Bhromoranga” has characters enduring hardships to get their play performed. Though there are no overt references to the political situation in Assam, the uncertainty to normal life, where an unpredictable, unforeseen action could bring life to a standstill and put the scheduled stage show in peril, remains an undertone in the play.

Legendary tale

Loitongbam Dorendra’s “Kao-Kei” (The bull and the tiger) is a Moirang Parva presentation, an ancient theatre form of Manipur on the verge of extinction. The play, typically performed by an all-woman cast, brings in stylised acting and a legendary tale. Dorendra, active in the theatre of the region for a long while and having worked with legends like Ratan Thiyam, got involved with Moirang Parva three years ago. The form attained popularity in the later 19th Century but is alive today thanks to the efforts of Manipuri women. Keeping alive the tradition, the musicians on stage played the cymbals, dholak and the traditional tena while the actors sang.

Though Dorendra said it is the episodes from “The Mahabharata” that are usually performed, here he has chosen from the epic “Khamba Thoibi Seireng” written by Mahakavi Hijam Anganghal.

Pranjal Saikia’s “Ratnakar Aadi” cajoles every person to be in touch with their better self in a world marred by violence, killing and dacoity. “We have so many roads in front of us, then why do we choose the wrong one,” asked Saikia. “Ratnakar Aadi” is an enactment of the evolution of the brutal dacoit Ratnakar to saint Valmiki who pens the iconic “Ramayana.”

“Man is incomplete in the present context of time, like the silkworm,” said Saikia. Written by Saponjyoti Thakur, the play focuses on the universal reality of violence and extremism where we forget to acquaint ourselves with the finer self.

“We can’t move without fear and there is no guarantee of getting back if you venture out,” noted Saikia, who is part of the 110-year-old Sibsagar Natya Samaj. An alumnus of NSD, Saikia said “Ratnakar Aadi” is a stylised workshop production. The cast, in the age-group of 16 to 26, was drawn from various corners of Assam.

“E Nixar Bhromoranga,” interprets Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“Kao-Kei” is a Moirang Parva presentation.

“Ratnakar Aadi” is an enactment of the evolution of the brutal dacoit Ratnakar to saint Valmiki.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 7:14:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/Wholesome-threesome/article16886912.ece

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