Janani Narasimhan is Amrapali in Theatre Nisha's next production

Theatre Nisha puts the spolight on a royal courtesan from 500 BC

Karan Pillai Published :  20th April 2018 06:00 AM   |   Published :   |  20th April 2018 06:00 AM
Janani Narasimhan in Amrapali

Janani Narasimhan in Amrapali

In his pursuit of creating a one-person play, V Balakrishnan of Theatre Nisha recalled a story of Amrapali that he had read in the Amar Chitra Katha and decided to portray her life on stage in his next production. Amrapali was a royal courtesan in the ancient republic of Vaishali (500 BC), who chose to follow Gautama Buddha and his teachings. “The play traces her life right from birth to her becoming a state courtesan. She entertained men at her house with dance and music and poetry. At a time when Magadha, Vaishali, Kaushambi, Gandhara and Kosala were fighting for  supremacy, Gautama Buddha and Mahavira were advocating a fresh path of life. And that’s when Amrapali and Buddha met,” says Balakrishnan, adding that the play was first staged in 2015. 

He admits it was a challenge to derive information about Amrapaii from various sources. “As we know, history is written by the victors and often has been a patriarchal bastion. There are numerous characters who have not been credited with documentation and authentication by literature,” he shares, adding, “In the process of researching extensively about her story, I realised the layers to her life of were deeper than what Amar Chitra Katha had offered for a child to imbibe.” 

The titular role is being played by Janani Narasimhan, one of the actors at Theatre Nisha. Since 2015, the play has been staged at venues like Soorya Festival in Kerala and Ranga Shankara in Bengaluru. “No changes have been made to the script for tomorrow’s performace. However, we met a man who chanted the Therigatha (a Buddhist scripture) and we added his verses in the play,” he says, adding that the play is ideal for ages above 12. The 65-minute play will be staged along with Gallantly Fought The Queen, another Theatre Nisha production. 

April 21-22. 3 pm and 7 pm. At Alliance Française of Madras. Entry at Rs. 200.