Award-winning director Sreejith Ramanan on the need for challenging themes and spatial narrative structures
As he prepares for the Kochi debut of his critically acclaimed play Ekantham, inspired by Chekhov’s work, this Sangeetha Nataka Kala Academy award winner wishes to revive a controversial debate.
Drawing parallels between the world portrayed in Anton Chekhov’s 128-year-old short story, The Bet, and contemporary Indian society isn’t easy. But Sreejith Ramanan loves a good challenge. As he prepares for the Kochi debut of his critically acclaimed play Ekantham, inspired by Chekhov’s work, this Sangeetha Nataka Kala Academy award winner wishes to revive a controversial debate subject—the death penalty.“I find it rather unsettling,”says Sreejith, adding, “It is abominable that, as a civilised society, we still haven’t been able to remove heinous things like capital punishment from our cultural milieu.”As he cites topical examples including Yakub Memon’s case, the actor/director explains that his inspiration behind undertaking the production, scripted by P J Unnikrishnan, is its social relevance as reflected in the recent verdicts passed by Indian courts.
The story follows the life of a lawyer, who vehemently opposes capital punishment and forces himself to endure solitary confinement for 15 years to prove this point. Though this is a four-member project, Rajesh Sharma (lawyer) has the lion’s share of the stage time. “Solitude is a much harder theme to be expressed on stage compared to concepts like death. In that sense, The Bet’s plot allows me to experiment with several scenographic elements,” shares Sreejith, as he elaborates on Ekantham’s stage design, which presents a narrow triangular space as opposed to the familiar rectangular one. While the walls of the set are made of transparent polycarbonate boards—to simulate the feeling of a modern glass-walled room,which is transparent but lonesome—the colour scheme brings in sharp colour contrasts, as the director wants to disassociate his setting from a conventional prison interior. “The idea is to recreate the feeling of modern day prison where you are connected to all and nothing at once, regardless of being inside a physical prison,” he says.
Braving the mould
Commenting on the trends seen in Kerala’s current theatre scene, the 39-year-old says that he’s rather disappointed at the lack of spatial experimentations. “We have evolved so much when it comes to technical elements like lighting. But, I find that the industry is rather timid when it comes to reinterpreting space. Same goes for using the body as a medium,” he adds, explaining that mere integration of a practice like yoga or contemporary dance into the traditional narrative doesn’t cut it. As for his future plans, the artiste is hoping to shift to acting via a play titled Enemy of The Man, which is currently in its pre-production phase.
On April 29 - 30. At Fine Arts Hall. `250 onwards. Details: 9447585046