KERALA

Raw stage power on show

K. Santhosh

Chirammel’s ‘Mudrarakshasam’ re-enacted at theatre fete

Thrissur: Age did not wither their camaraderie. Two decades after they first staged ‘Mudrarakshasam,’ associates and protégés of dramatist Jose Chirammel re-enacted the play at the International Theatre Festival of Kerala here on Tuesday.

Chirammel’s enactment of ‘Mudrarakshasam’ in the 1980s was much noticed for its freshness and energy.

Till then, the Kavalam style had dominated modern interpretations of Sanskrit plays. Chirammel borrowed signs, gestures and images from traditional sources, as Kavalam did.

Energy

But the similarities ended there. Chirammel infused into the traditional matrix the raw energy of modern theatre, the elements of which he imbibed from the G. Sankara Pillai School. Communication mattered to Chirammel more than abject subservience to esoteric traditional aesthetic concepts.

Watching Chirammel’s ‘Mudrarakshasam,’ one would not split hairs over the concept of ‘Touryatrikam,’ but simply sit back and give in to the raw power of theatre.

‘Mudrarakshasam’, written by fourth-century playwright Visakhadatta, narrates how Chanakya helps Chandragupta Maurya come to power by defeating king Nanda of Magadha.

To achieve this, the master strategist forges a pact with king Parvataka. Parvataka and Chandragupta share Nanda’s assets. After Parvataka’s death, his son Malayakethu succeeds him and reclaims the assets.

Nanda’s former Minister Rakshasa helps Malayakethu. Chanakya pulls of a coup by destroying the Malayakethu-Rakshasa alliance.

Visakhadatta’s play is known not merely for its artistic merit.

It is considered a historical document, throwing light on the rise of one of India’s valiant rulers whose empire extended from Mysore to the borders of Persia.

As a historian wrote, “Chandragupta’s rise to greatness is the romance of history”.

India had hardly recovered from the brutal shock of Alexander’s invasion. Only a leader of the calibre of Chandragupta could revive a depressed nation.

More importantly, the play gives a picture of Chanakya, one of the most misunderstood personalities in Indian history.

Through a sincere re-enactment of ’Mudrarakshasam’, Chirammel’s protégés have paid off debts to their mentor.

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