A fresh spin on mythology
Director Feisal Alkazi’s Devayani—an exploration of a tale from Mahabharata—gracefully substantiates the statement, Stories are the world, and everything beyond the world
Five minutes into director Feisal Alkazi’s new play, one of the chorus members chants, ‘Stories are the world, and everything beyond the world’. Alkazi’s Devayani—an exploration of a tale from Mahabharata—gracefully substantiates this statement. The opening performance of the play, which took place at India International Centre, Lodhi Estate, on Friday, was an ideal curtain-raiser to the 50th anniversary season of Ruchika Theatre Group, a theatre group established in 1972.
The 90-minute-long play is based on the legend of five lesser-known characters from Mahabharata—Devyani, Kacha, Sharmishtha, Yayati, and Guru Shukracharya. Alkazi explores the discourses of love, society, and power through the lens of gender, delivering it through a seamless two-act plot. The characters question, adapt, and adhere to the dilemmas that originate from their dharma (moral duty) and adharma (unrighteousness).
Alkazi places the tale at a juncture where the epic’s conventional characters along with its storyline meet contemporary interpretations. While the story is set in an alternate world, a parallelism to the present-day world was not hard to ignore. “The timelessness comes from the gender issue depicted. It is an utterly patriarchal society that this woman lives in that if she has any agency, it is through marriage and this is the same till date,” explained Alkazi.
The audience listened with rapture to Alkazi’s idyllic words, written and delivered poetically. Elements of physical theatre such as mime, gesture, etc., stayed at the core of the performance. The movement vocabulary drawn by Alkazi and choreographer Vishwakant Singha also complimented the entire plot.
The role of the chorus not only extended a sense of structure to the play but also added a tinge of humour and drama to it. The actors played their parts convincingly. Along with the performances, the smooth music design, as well as imagery created through powerful words, eliminated any need for props or an elaborate set. These words, in fact, were enough to transport the audience into an alternate dimension.
Talking about his experience of working on the play, Arnav Michael who played the role of Yayati, shared, “The play helped me get rid of my inhibitions, one being shirtless and the other doing intimate scenes. We have a lovely cast, a great director, and choreographer. All of that blended in together.”
Minakshi Arora from Gurugram, who was here to watch the play, concluded, “I think it was unique, out-of-the-box, and very different from what Feisal normally does. It was very expressive and I thoroughly enjoyed it.”