Maya Krishna Rao brings Quality Street and Ravanama to Bengaluru
In an era when solo performances were still an unexplored form in Indian theatre, Maya Krishna Rao presented pieces which were not just entertaining, but were engaging as well. In recent years, Maya has staged two solo protest theatre pieces —Walk, in response to the 2012 Delhi gang rape, and Not in My Name, titled after the movement it supported. But earlier in September, Maya revived one of her most acclaimed comedy pieces — Quality Street, which she staged in Delhi.
Next week, she brings this play and another solo performance, Ravanama to Bengaluru. “I had taken a hiatus for about four years as I was busy teaching and had only worked on response pieces (refers to Walk and Not in My Name). I wanted to make a comeback, because this is where I belong,” says the artiste in her deep voice, over a call. Quality Street, an acerbic comedy, is a story about a Nigerian mother and her US-returned, university-educated daughter.
Maya plays Mrs Njoku, the mother, who is a diva in her own right, and she also plays the daughter. “Initially, I was thinking of making it an Indian character. But I happened to meet a Nigerian woman in Delhi and I thought it was a real sign. I told her about the story and she got very excited and our friendship developed. I would hang out with her, just trying to imbibe the way she talks,” reminisces Maya. Incidentally, the Nigerian woman designed the iconic green costume for the play that Maya wears till date.
The second play, Ravanama, explores different angles to the story of Ravana. This piece is an outcome of intensive research, and picks out of tales from folk songs and folklore. Talking about this piece, Maya explains, “I have taken several stories of Ravana, and woven them together in my own way. I haven’t looked at the main spine of the largely prevalent stories, which are all unidimensional. There are many, many other stories which are rich and interesting. In fact, the character is very rich. He is a scholar, a musician, he can get what he likes from the Gods and yet he is cursed by them.” Maya is exploring the way Ravana evolves in Kathakali, a form she has been practising for many years. She says, “The way he is depicted in Kathakali is very different from any other delineation that I have ever come across, and this is an important source of inspiration.”
Both the stories and plays are distinctly different — a deliberate plan by Maya to give the audience a wider and more interesting dialogue for discussion. “I have for long wanted to do this —present two or more shows that are very different in treatment, and approach. I want audiences to get different experiences so that it opens up discussions about what theatre is doing for people,” she signs off.
October 10 and 13, 7.30 pm. At Ranga Shankara, JP Nagar. Tickets (Rs 200) on bookmyshow.com