Published on August 1, 2014 in Mint
Witness a retelling of two of the greatest epics of our times, Mahabharata and Ramayana
Love, lust, power, revenge and war—five words enough to sum up two of the greatest and celebrated epics of our times, Mahabharat and Ramayan—come strung together in a theatrical presentation, Revisiting The Epics, in the Capital on Friday.
Directed by Sujata Soni Bali, founder of Miran Productions, the performance is a unique rendition of the two classics, their scenes blended together with a contemporary twist. “I’ve always been inspired by the Mahabharat and the Ramayan. They’re the two most well-known scripts of India and their tales have always fascinated me. The fact that they’re relevant even in modern times is what makes them extraordinary,” she says.
The 1-hour show is an amalgamation of dance, performance and recital. It combines three significant scenes —Sita’s Agnipariksha, Draupadi’s insult in the royal court following the game of dice, and Abhimanyu’s death in Kurukshetra—to capture the essence of mythological lores with thought-provoking twists. The performances are staged by well-known artistes such as Tom Alter, Charu Shankar, Chander Khanna and Bhavini Misra.
Revisiting The Epics is an adaptation from various translations of the original, using two contemporary dances based on the folk forms of chhau and kalaripayattu. It employs ancient scripts but the context, says Bali, is fairly relevant to modern times. However, there is no attempt to build direct linkages though the play does allude to present-day politics and manipulation, morals, dilemmas, and gender issues.
“The idea is to revisit these amazing tales yet again and find new meanings. For instance, Ravana kidnapped Sita and was overcome by her beauty, but he never violated her. We try and bring forth the other, lesser-known side of him being the most learned man in that era who knew scriptures and wrote poems and songs. Few folks know that the game of dice was played not once but twice, and that there was a chance to walk away, to recover what was lost. But human emotions sometimes get the better of us, leading to loss and destruction,” explains Bali.
The script goes a step further and uses the work of Hindi poet Maithili Sharan Gupt, best known for writing verses in Khari Boli (plain dialect). “We’ve used a small portion of Gupt’s epic poem Jayadrath Vadh, which tells the story of the killing of the Sindhu King Jayadrath by Arjuna and Abhimanyu’s bravery in battle. Veteran actor Chander Khanna will be seen narrating the part of the young 16-year-old Abhimanyu tackling seasoned warriors, fighting the tough and unique chakravyuh formation, and dying a martyr,” says Bali.
Revisiting The Epics was staged on 1 August, 7.30pm, at Epicentre, Apparel House, Gurgaon.