Theatre

Short story, deep impact

03dfrBajeli1   | Photo Credit: 03dfrBajeli1

There are various presentational techniques to enact a short story. The conventional device is to write an adapted version and introduce a character of sutradhar (anchor) to comment on the coming events and summarise the action presented in a realistic style. There is another method what former director of National School of Drama Devendra Raj Ankur calls “Kahani Ka Rang Manch” which intends to project the short story in its original form on a bare stage with no property.

This past week we had an opportunity to witness a theatrical event which was altogether a new experiment to dramatise short story. The event was the staging of Maxim Gorky’s short story entitled “The Mother of a Traitor” by National School of Drama at Abhimanch.

As a part of diploma production, it was designed and directed by Pannaga Jois. She creates a stunning image of a patriotic mother who sacrifices what is dearest to her heart. Pannaga’s selection of Gorky’s short story is in itself commendable in a time when in the name of women’s liberation philistine ideas are being glorified on the stage. Gorky’s story has a universal appeal with profundity of human thought.

The play opens with the deafening sounds of drum-beats with the drummer’s intense mood marching towards the exit. Then the space is occupied by soldiers exuding militancy. Three women from different points enter with stylised movements. One of the women, Monna Marianna is the mother of a traitor who is determined to destroy his own country with the help of foreign troops. He wants to assert his superiority. The enemy forces have surrounded the country of the traitor. The terror-stricken citizens are raising accusing fingers at her. Deeply wounded, the traitor’s mother is wandering here and there to find her son. At one place she watches a woman, sitting near the body of her martyred son, shouting, “May he be accursed and the womb that bore him.” This is directed against the traitor and his mother.

At long last, the mother discovers her son. Taking pride in his betrayal and marching along with the enemy forces, he is getting ready to attack. The traitor is under the impression that his mother is pleased to discover her son in full preparedness to attack. He greets her. Both the mother and son sit for a while, the son rests in the lap of the mother. With the force of a tigress, she stabs her son with a view to fulfil her duty as a patriot to protect her country from enemy attack.

One of the highlights of the production is that Pannaga has conceived a highly stylised format, drawing elements from ritualistic folk form of Karnataka called Dhollu Kunita generally performed during festivals with beats of drums as dominant expressing means, conveying the mood of war-cry. Through choreographic patterns, vital body movements with subtle lighting effects powerful visuals are created. There are a few dialogues. The director has aptly blended the content with form. The visuals are invested with the power to grip the attention of the audience.

In the original story the mother of the traitor fulfils two duties – she kills her traitor son as a patriot and as a mother who loves her son she kills herself. But in the production under review, the mother does not kill herself. Probably the director wants to emphasise mother’s role as a patriot because the story is written during the Russian Revolution.

The director has departed not only from realistic mode of presentational style but also from proscenium stage. Using the acting space, she has evolved an intimate theatre, blocking the auditorium space meant for audience. Against a plank, slanted steps are created vertically for the audience to enable them to have an intimate view of the action from every angle. Apart from folk drums, there are other musical instruments to reinforce the required mood.

The members of the caste synchronising their movements with orchestra sustain the intensity of their body language throughout the show.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2021 11:11:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/short-story-deep-impact/article7379138.ece

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