Imprisoned in the image

December 15, 2006 12:00 am | Updated March 26, 2012 01:00 pm IST


The play, "Siddharth... Pathik Us Raah Ka" raises poignant questions with artistry.

The production "Siddharth... Pathik Us Raah Ka", based on Vijay Mishra's Oriya play entitled "Tat Niranjana" and presented by Kshitij Natya Sanstha recently at the Shri Ram Centre, conveys serious philosophical content with remarkable artistry and dramatic force. The play, set in the last days of the Buddha's life, explores the element of relativity in the evaluation of truth and knowledge. At another level, it points out how a progressive and liberating movement heralded by a visionary who is a product of his times, can degenerate into a regressive worldview as a result of regimentation and institutionalisation. Translated into Hindi by Rajendra Prashad Mishra, "Siddharth... " is directed by Bipin Kumar, a graduate of the National School of Drama. Other highlights of the production are its visual appeal, innovation and rhythmic flow of dramatic action which moves to various locations. The images it creates lend beauty, subtlety and intricacy to the production.Set in pre-Mauryan India (Magadha), the play opens at a point of time when Buddha had already attained supreme knowledge of the path to salvation and the popularity of the Buddhist Sangha or Order is at its peak. Buddha's follwers headed by Monk Ananda have convinced themselves that now there is nothing left for them to discover things spiritual. Buddha's teachings have already been written and in case of any doubt, these teachings should be consulted and interpreted.As the play opens we meet an aging Buddha, surrounded by his disciples. He is assailed by doubts about his own path and about the process of degeneration that is gradually setting in in the functioning of the Sangha. A distraught Buddha starts to reflect about human life and spirituality. He is desperate to discover truth and knowledge anew and addresses his dear disciple Ananda, "There is nothing like absolute truth or knowledge. It grows along with the gradual development of man from one stage to another... Ananda, break up the Sangha... I formed it with a view to enable a man to discover his path of welfare and be his own guide... " Painfully, he discovers to his dismay that Gautam is imprisoned in the image of the Buddha.Through the interactions of the main characters the production gains momentum. Ichchhamati is passionately in love with Neelohit and questions Monk Ananda's rigid, dogmatic and sectarian interpretation of Buddha's teachings. Ananda is disturbed to hear Buddha's new comments on life and his own philosophy after deep introspection. Terrified with Buddha's new comments, considering them as the antithesis of what Buddha's preaching stands for, he forces Buddha to observe eternal silence lest these spell disaster for the very existence of the Sangha and Buddhist thought.

With conviction

Laxmi Rawat as Ichchhamati creates a powerful portrait of a young woman who dares to face Monk Ananda and starts philosophic discourse with conviction. Amit Saxena's Neelohit is a vacillating young man, lacking courage. Deep Kumar as Monk Ananda and Mohit Tripathi as Gautam Buddha act admirably. Bharti Sharma, also an NSD graduate, reveals the bitter memory of a woman deserted by her husband, who has become the Buddha. Bharti acts with restraint, enabling her to bring to the fore the inner troubled world of her character.

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