Verdict: A search for completeness twists three lives together in a modern portrayal of Girish Karanad’s famous play Hayavadana.
Hayavadana is back in town! Girish Karnad’s famous play is being performed by Black Boxers and The Industrial Theatre Co. at K. R. Cama Oriental Institute in Kala Ghoda. The play managed to create a hype with interesting videos showing a man with a wooden horse-head mold walking through Mumbai interacting with people, experiencing the city and dealing with the awkwardness of having a horse head.
Sombre flute music expertly captures the various moods set by the play, which is performed in a square clearing in the centre of the hall. With seats placed on all four sides of the performance space, this play transitions past the ritualistic performance style and involves the audience closely in the story Challenges of using a square space, like facing your back to the audience, dissolve as the cast uses the space expertly, while continually piquing audience interest. The actors warm up in front of the audience, portraying an element of theatre rarely seen – the humanness of the characters and the actors themselves.
Novelty of concept also reflects in the manner that directors Arghya Lahiri and Pushan Kriplani handle the script. The narrators use a casual tone that provides audience breathing space to explore their own understanding of the play. The actors seamlessly change skins and roles, doubling up as more than one character. At times, they step out of their roles, to make references to real space and time instead of the one portrayed in the play. Yet, the humorous tone of their performance does not conflict with the seriousness of the ensuing drama. The jokes are light and not overdone.
Minimalistic props are placed close to the stage, on cushions that replace wings in this new style of stage setup. The actors assume their positions on these cushions when they aren’t in the scene, taking the role of audience and enjoying the performance as it unravels. Perhaps this duality of nature, the performer and the observer, helps them to better explore the complexities of their characters and the basic human desires that guides the play.
Kapil (Vivek Gomber) is an uneducated brute, who is a champion sportsman. In contrast, Devdutt (Prashant Praksh) is a learned Brahmin poet who submerses himself in intellectual pursuits and has a pittance of a body. Despite their stark differences both the characters are close friends until a rift is driven through them when the beautiful Padmini (Preetika Chawla) marries Devdutt by fantasises about the other friend. She playfully teases both the men, further deepening the divide between them. Jealous and out of control with rage and self-pity Devdutt sacrifices himself in the Kali temple on their way to Ujjain. Kapil, torn with grief follows. Annoyed and afraid of being accused as a murderess, Padmini tries to sacrifice herself. In an unique yet apt portrayal, an annoyed Kali (Dilnaz Irani) is awoken from her slumber. She grants the men life, but Padmini unwittingly switches the heads: creating her perfect lover with the body she craved and the mind she married.
However, her decision entangles the lives of the three protagonists further. Questions become of paramount importance; answers eluding everyone.The play change tones as it shifts perspective from character to character. At some parts the actors communicate directly with the audience, breaking the fourth wall, while at others they voice their thoughts to no one in particular. They manage to portray the conflict between what human beings portray and what their true feelings and desires manifest.
The play derives its roots from the 11th century book of Indian legends, the Kathasaritsagara, which in turn formed the base for Thomas Mann’s novella, The Transposed Heads inspired from which was born Girish Karnad’s play Hayavadana. It grapples with the question: Is a person’s identity is his mind or his physical embodiment?
The play manages to hint at the large concept of incompleteness that resides within every human being. The directors create a beginning and an end beyond the scope of Girish Karnad’s original play, exploring the physical wholeness of an actual man with a horses head, punning at the ideology that completeness can be found.
Venue: K. R. Cama Oriental Institute, Bombay Samachar Marg, Opposite Lion Gate, Kala Ghoda, Fort
Timings & Date: 7pm on 23rd December, 24th December, 25th December, 30th December, 31st December.
Entry: Rs. 250 per ticket. For bookings enquiries call Neha +91 98207 45916
For further details visit: www.facebook.com/Hayavadana
Photo by Ameet Mallapur