From the battlefield: Duryodhana is the man of the hour in Theatre Nisha’s Urubhangam
For her directorial debut, titled Urubhangam, Shakthi Ramani asserts that she will put all her learning into practice, while at the same time allowing her instincts to take control too. “Everything I have learnt over the past seven years in terms of physical body movement — both on and off stage — has been incorporated into this production. The amalgamation of contemporary movement with folk and classical dance has come from watching and learning from masters of movement at work,” says Shakthi, who has been a regular cast member of many of Theatre Nisha’s recent plays, besides being a part of the theatre group for the past seven years.
In Urubhangam, Shakthi tries to unravel the humane side of the Kurukshetra War, by trying to portray the other side of Duryodhana, the eldest of the Kauravas, a side that is in stark contrast to the ruthless warrior in him. Adapted from Bhasa’s original work of the same name, the play focuses on Duryodhana after his battle with Bhima, where he is bruised and battered and seeks redemption in a losing cause.
In Shakthi’s version, we see a contrast of a different kind — one of the chaotic scenes of the battlefield, and Duryodhana, who can barely move. “The play offers polar contrasts in terms of movement. It takes place on a battlefield, frenzied and chaotic, and then there is a man who can’t move from the waist down. It seemed almost like yin and yang,” says Shakthi, who received her initial training in body movement at Attakalari Centre for Movement Arts, Bengaluru.
A hero in everyone
Referring to Bhasa’s vast repertoire of work that’s inspired by the epics, Shakthi points out that although he is firmly on the side of the heroes, he also treats their opponents with equal respect.
“His plays are generally short when compared to the works of other playwrights who wrote on themes inspired by the epics. In Urubhangam, although Duryodhana is the villain, he is shown as a hero who repents his past, while he lies with his thighs crushed, awaiting death,” she says, adding that although Bhasa’s plays were discovered only in the 20th century, Uru-Bhanga, and another one, Karna-bhara, have become popular due to their appeal to modern tastes, and performed in translations and Sanskrit.
With the minimal costumes curated by Theatre Nisha veterans V Balakrishnan (who plays Duryodhana) and Meera Sitaraman, Shakthi’s play has music by Srivaralaxmi Maya Abishek and percussion by Vishwa Bharath. Also, expect to see a smooth blend of bharatanatyam, devarattam and contemporary dance, plus chants and songs in both Tamil and Sanskrit. Up next for Shakthi is the presentation of Urubhangam at the Soorya Festival in Kerala, and also theatre workshops in Coimbatore.
June 14, 15 & 16; 7 pm, 3 pm, and 7 pm, respectively. At Alliance Française of Madras. Details: 96771-72897.