A bit of monkey business and more

Well-adapted: Sending across mixed messages

Well-adapted: Sending across mixed messages  


The audience thoroughly enjoyed themselves at the play.

Children babbled, their enthusiastic parents chuckled and 60-year-olds sat back and guffawed as they watched a performance of David Horsburgh’s “The Ungrateful Man”, directed by Vijay Padaki and enacted by Bangalore Little Theatre at Rangashankara. The stage, abuzz with action, colour, humour, sound effects and drama, brought the Panchatantra animal fable alive.

Richly decorated with vibrant costumes, multi-hued make-up, puppetry and a varied cast, “The Ungrateful Man” also celebrates its 40th anniversary of the first performance in Bangalore. The proceeds of the play will go towards Dream a Dream NGO.

The percussionist had everyone clapping hands in response to his catchy beats.

The Sutradhar (Shashank Nagaraja) and Nati (Medhave Gandhi) in ethnic costumes kept the narrative going.

The acting was a delight. Yagnamurthi (Sridhar Ramanathan) was a riot as the pot-bellied Brahmin with his exaggerated whimpers and cries. Yagnamurthi’s wife, Subhashini (Priya Venkatesh) was magnificent as a gigantic puppet.

The stage was extended to the whole theatre in some scenes like when Yagnamurthi looks for Sutradhar in the audience.

The screen in the backdrop changed colour to represent the time of day, mellow orange for sunrise or a full moon night shaded by the green forest.

Pushing boundaries

The translation of Yagnamurthi’s chants into English widened the play’s reach.

In one scene, monkeys spread a feast complete with tetra-packs of juice and a picnic basket. Children from the audience come on-stage , munching toffee .

When they throw the wrappers in the forest, the Sutradhar makes them pick them up thus teaching children not to litter.

All the good work came to a stop when the play showed the children feeding the monkeys with toffees when they were on hunger strike, creating a contradiction to the earlier environmental lesson.

The tiger’s house was modern and human, with a post-box and fence.

The tiger was captivating in his leopard-print bathrobe, self-assuredly swaggering around.

The second part though complete with fine costumes, sets, sounds and acting was too long drawn out to hold the attention-span of the audience.

Suvarnaka (Shashank Purushotham) was superb in the portrayal of the money-minded goldsmith with his nasal voice dripping cunning and wiliness. But the concept of what is ugliness -- ‘pimples and fat’ and beauty --‘fairness and slimness’ and the exalted holy powers of the priestly class, once again, should have been altered from the original for the impressionable minds of today.

In the end, the child-actors rolled out a banner, “Sorry, No Visitors Backstage”. Even though it was a tad too long , “The Ungrateful Man” was delightfully entertaining for everyone.

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