Ila Arun and KK Raina's play Shabd Leela comes to Kolkata
WORDS HAVE A timeless appeal. They resonate with us for a time, long past their actual utterance and sometimes with the same impact (or more) when they were coined first. Perhaps, that is the reason why entire literary canons have been preserved the world over. Surnai Theatre and Folk Arts Foundation’s latest production Shabd Leela is a case in point- which combines selected portions from three works by famous Hindi playwright and poet, Dr. Dharamvir Bharati in one single script, written by Ila Arun.
Presented by Sanskriti Sagar and Centre Stage Creations, the play traces a common thread running through Kanupriya, Andha Yug and the letters of Dr Bharati written to Pushpa Bharati, called Ek Sahityak Ke Prem Patra and interprets them in the present context.
“It took us four months to read all of Dr Bharati’s works to decide which ones to select and include in the script,” reveals KK Raina, the director. “We wanted to remind the audience about the importance and impact of Dr Bharati’s words, whether it is his poetry, his play or his letters. But it won’t just be a reading of his works. We have tried to add a theatrical quality by trying to capture the audience’s imagination so that they understand Dr Bharati’s vision,” he shares.
Raina further elaborates, “While there is a love story (of Dr Bharati and Pushpa Bharati), depicted on a literary canvas through Radha and Krishna in Kanupriya; we see a prelude to Andha Yug, when the same Radha, speaks as a disappointed lady love, admonishing Krishna for deserting her; as he chose to embark on a Dharam Yudh. The main thrust of the two hour play remains the anti-war play Andha Yug, which evokes the similarity between the power struggles between different countries today and the threat to human life that nuclear war poses- with that of the Mahabharata — where Vyas warns Ashwathama from using the Bramhastra, which might wipe out the human race.”
While the play depicts the futility of war, on one hand, it also conveys Krishna’s failure to bring about peace and the acceptance of his failure in the form of Gandhari’s curse — which eventually leads to his death. Raina recollects, “I have always wanted to stage Kanupriya, ever since I read the text, as a student at the National School of Drama. There is a particular section — where Radha tells Krishna — that just because he left love behind, all his plans to bring about fairness or peace has failed; and that, no world can become better without love. Though he might have left her, she is still waiting for him to return, so that he can revive the world again and rewrite history. We never look at the Mahabharata in this light, and the optimism it evokes has remained with me.”
The cast includes Rajeshwari Sachdev as Radha, Varun Badola as Dr Bharati and Krishna and Ila Arun as the narrator, and Gandhari, among others. The lights and sets have been designed by Salim Akhtar, with music co-ordinated by Dhruv Ghanekar and visuals by Arnab Chaudhary, while the special effects and sound operation has been supervised by Sanjoy Dazz.
At GD Birla Sabhagar. On July 28, at 6.30 pm.