Malgudi on stage

Recreating the magic Of Swami on stage  

Immerse yourself in the world of Malgudi with Swami and Friends, directed by Aruna Ganesh Ram. An adaptation of R.K. Narayan’s iconic novel, the play is not only a recreation of Malgudi, but also an immersive theatre experience. The play, which was first staged at The Hindu MetroPlus Theatre Festival (2011), evoked nostalgia through minimal sets and natural performances. “I had earlier seen the TV serial. But in 2008, I read the book and within the second chapter, I realised this must be a play! I was in Chennai then and had formed a youth theatre group, Landing Stage. I called Manasi Subramaniam, with whom I started it and asked her to write the play,” recalls Aruna, performance director, designer, trainer and founder of Visual Respiration.

Re-creating the myriad landscapes of Malgudi, Aruna says: “Most people have either read the book or watched the telly series. So they already have visuals. I thought over how to show those landscapes. The scenes constantly shift from a grove, a house, a river side. I can’t go with a static stage. I conceived a design of wooden blocks in various depths and heights to depict these landscapes. For the sets, we’ve used wood, bamboo and rope.”

The last production had actors from Chennai; this time there are actors from Bengaluru. “One of the actors playing Swami is Ishaan Pai and the older Swami is depicted by Sridhar Kulkarni. The challenge was because of the text delivery, we had to pick older actors to create the illusion of being much younger. Ishaan is about 13, and is playing a 10-year-old Swami. The actor playing Mani is 23 and Rajam is about 24 or 25. The book is set in pre-Independence India and R.K. Narayan wrote it when he was older, looking back on his childhood. To me, the kind of the things the boys do and say is what adults would.”

Aruna holds an M.A. in Advanced Theatre Practice from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London. Like her other productions A Moment of Memory and Re: Play, Aruna wanted to make Swami and Friends an immersive theatre experience. “What does it take to engage our senses, apart from sight and sound? We thought of smell. There will be two actors who will sit among the audience and will create smells of, for example, brewing filter coffee. We were selective of picking specific smells, which had to be light and not overpowering.”

Swami and Friends is being staged as part of The Jagriti Season 2015, till October 11 at Jagriti Theatre, Whitefield. Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3.30 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. Tickets are available on

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 2:43:51 PM |

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