Vivek Vijayakumaran brings Bhima alive on stage

There are many aspects unknown about the second Pandava from the epic Mahabharata. “Bhima is generally perceived as one with a lot of might and not much brains. I find that there are many junctures in life where he was pulled in opposite directions. His failure was that he was never able to take a stand based on his own convictions,” says Vivek Vijayakumaran, a theatre practitioner from Bangalore. His play, Bhima, which was conceived in 2011 and premiered in 2015, will be staged in Chennai this weekend. The one-man show, which pieces together select narratives from the Mahabharata, shows Bhima as he struggles with obligation versus desire. It explores the vulnerable side of the titular character and breaks his conventional image.

“Bhima is a character who did not have a mentor, unlike Arjuna, who had Krishna to guide him,” says Vivek, explaining that most of Bhima’s decisions in life were taken for him by his loved ones, like his mother and brother. “Love nourishes, but sometimes, it can also weigh you down.” He says that the play also explores other conflicts: while he feels that Draupadi should not be shared, he is still enticed by her. “Bhima is a symbol of desire, his greed for food being a metaphorical telling of it.” The story, he adds, is one which finds much relevance today.

Produced by Our Theatre, the play has been staged in Bangalore, Delhi and at Adishakti in Pondicherry. It has also been invited to the fifth edition of the Colombo International Theatre Festival. The most daunting task in putting the act together, says Vivek, was mastering the classical theatrical form Kutiyattam. “As an urban actor, I was interested in the depth Kutiyattam brought to an actor’s action.”

He began learning the form with the support of the Inlaks Theatre Award in 2012, and it took him over a year to train in a 20-minute act. He explains that it started off as an experiment to show that an urban contemporary actor can train in a classical form and innovate with it. “The idea, very clearly, was not to imitate Kutiyattam, but to keep its essence and change its outer body to make it more accessible. Since the play is derived from a classical form, it also brings a certain quality to the performance.”

Bhima is a 55-minute performance in English. It will be staged on March 19 and 20 at Spaces (7 p.m.). Entry is free.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 12:46:20 PM |

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