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Coming of age

EXTREMELY EXPRESSIVE Captivating performance

EXTREMELY EXPRESSIVE Captivating performance   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: G. MOORTHY





`Vaanaprastham', through the central character, raised several questions on woman's psyche

Sans any extravagant setting or gaudy costume, the play `Vaanaprastham' (Dwelling in the forest), staged by Velvi, a Madurai-based Trust, at Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary recently, had enough in it to mesmerise the audience.A narrative based on the "Mahabharatham", the play unravels the psyche of a woman, with Kunti as the protagonist, and thereby reflects the collective consciousness of women.Director of the play Parasuram Ramamoorthy takes the audience through the life of Kunti, who as a beautiful youth wishes to marry a prince. He presents her as a bold girl, which is evident from the scene where she scales a mountain peak to fetch a flower that will improve the texture of her skin.She earns a boon from sage Dhurvasa for her service to him when he visited her place. Using the boon she invites Surya, `the Sun God', and gives birth to a male child `Karna' but fear drives her to let the child off in a box along the river.

Self-discovery

When Kunti grows old, loneliness is her companion. But the director uses this state as a metaphor for self-discovery, acceptance and reconciliation. It is about Kunti's journey to awareness and self-discovery. It is her pilgrimage to sacred spaces within herself.Kunti as a respectful queen, mother of `Pancha Pandavas' is well known. Not many are interested in her early life and aspirations. The director deserves a pat for touching upon a subject that no one has perhaps thought of. But how did he evolve it? "It was an intense meditation," said Mr. Ramamoorthy, who teaches Theatre Arts at Madurai Kamaraj University. "The play was an outcome of the interaction I had with Kunti in my mind for more than two years. I conceptualised it, wrote it in English, which was translated into Tamil. Anitha Santhanam who played the role brought alive Kunti of bygone era and fused it with contemporary Kunti," he said.

Raises questions

Through the portrayal of a woman's journey, the play also raises several questions: Is woman a mere puppet in the hands of man? How do women negotiate the conflicting demands of desire versus duty; need versus want, the comfort of conformity and the perils of living life on her own terms? The central character of the play even raises a doubt as to what right she has to question the righteousness and morality of Draupadi. If the 70-minute play kept the audience glued to their seats the credit should go to the brilliant performance by the Bangalore-based dancer-cum- choreographer Anitha Santhanam. "She had to play the role donned by three individual actors in original English version," says Mr. Ramamoorthy, a bilingual playwright with special interest in applied drama.He ensured that at no point of time the audience grew restless or bored of seeing the same face throughout the play. Anitha, a trained Bharathanatyam dancer said: "I was part of a dance company, `Shiri'. Though I have the experience of acting as an amateur, this is my first professional appearance on stage." Her exemplary performance was boosted by her dancing skills. In a matter of minutes she was able to change her body language and facial expressions from a young girl to an old lady. The synchronisation of the fusion music composed by S. David and the handling of lights by Rajkumar, a drama teacher at TVS Lakshmi Matriculation Higher Secondary School, enhanced the mood of the play. Actor and folklorist Sundar Kaali, as the technical director too, deserves a mention. The success of the play is such that now the crew is all set to crossover into alien territory and stage a performance in Germany next month, where the play will also be staged in German.T.SARAVANAN





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