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Fine blend of drama and dance

SHAKESPEARE AND Kathakali? Strange combination? Not really when you think of the dramatic elements in both. The play of emotions, the feel for theatrics and the same sense of the positive winning over the negative. In this case since it was featured in The Other Festival there was this edge over the ordinary. It was in the realm of the explorative and that was what it was meant to do in the first place.

And so this venture became Khelkali (December 3, at the Museum Theatre) where the style of Kathakali was juxtaposed with Shakespeare's text and stories, in this case ``Othello" and ``A Midsummer Night's Dream," to present a rather well knit exercise in drama and dance. And it was most enjoyable.

Arjun Raina is a trained actor from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. And he is also a Kathakali dancer traimed by Guru Sadanam Balakrishnan. And if these are not qualifications enough he also teaches voice and acting at the National School of Drama, New Delhi. In addition, he has also played Annie in the film ``In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones.'' With such a background there was no way it would not be a fruitful one-hour.

The story telling part was made lighthearted with Raina's comments and on the spot cracks that ranged from the mundane to the most philosophical. He used the Shakespearean comedy to weave it along with a story from Kerala - all set in the forest for that unity and went on to the legend/story of Bhima and Anjaneya. The play of words and characters blended in a strange synergy, with Anjaneya calling Bhima an ass and then playing out the asses dance that could only remind one of Shakespeare, Oberon, Titania, and Puck. And when the big, burly Raina finished you almost wished he would go on and draw out some more of these.

Dialogue in silence

A Sound Of Silence and there was more to that on December 4 featured at The Other Festival. There was the space that was filled with people, artists and the music that made the evening productive for those in search of art forms that are out of the box. May not be something that one is used to but the thought that there is space to experiment is something that can be rather heady. In this case it was the Samudra Center for Performing Arts, Thiruvanathapuram that went into a dialogue between movement and sound, body and soul tradition and modernity to bring out a contemporary work about the life force governing each individual.

Featuring Madhu Gopinath, Vakkom Sajeev and Kalamandalam Anand, the founders of Samudra, it began with the Gayathri Mantra, which set the mood of introspection and silence. Within the sounds there was an inherent silence, which could be felt, right from the movements that seemed to slice through the stark stage to one of the artistes swinging by a rope in an ode to creation.

A sloka from the Soundaryalahari, Asatoma Sat Gamaya, and the live music that followed showed that what the mind visualises the body could create. Complete control over the movements made the body seem most pliable.

From the beginning there is nothing. In fact from the sound the silence emerges and there is birth- there is creation and then there is the growth. Initially the woman is filled with love and is an object of love till such time she moves on to becoming an object of power for herself and for the others. Then comes the sensuality of the male and female till such time there is an end while the soul still lives on. In other words the life chakra or the wheel of life.

All these were explained further after the session to an audience that wanted answers. And as one of the performers said, ``We create our own movements, we move like the waves.

While it may seem like gymnastics or plain exercises there is motive behind each step, each movement. We are saying something through every piece of choreography.''

Truths about life

The mundanity of routine, the inevitability of life, and the passing of years were given its due in Schisgal's ``The typists" a play by Atul Kumar, Mumbai. In the style of the absurd the tragic elements are left to the audience to sift through to take home some truths about life.

Two typists are caught in the routine without much hope of achieving all that they dream of. Fine cars, big house, parties and the bright lights of glamour. Those are the distant dreams but the reality is the pile of paper left to type out and the two rattling typewriters. (Something set couple of years ago. For today computers have made their appearance and are replacing the good old typewriter.) In that sense the magnitude of the dull life looms large and the two typists, a rapidly middle aging woman Sylvia and a youngish man Paul, trying to break free, are caught together in a relationship that endures through the years. Years that are set by the clock and the routine. Through it all they try to be each other's analyst, but all can be said but can it be changed?

Playing Paul and Sylvia were Zafar Karachiwalla and Yuki Ellias- both obviously slipping into their roles with perfect zest and the tragi-comic manner of delivering the lines were rather captivating. Atul Kumar has been in theatre as an actor and director for over 18 years and has worked extensively with Compagnie Philippe Genty in Paris and the Sacramento Theatre Company, California. He is also president of the company theatre and director of EVAM, the International Center for Performing Arts, Lonavla, where all visual and performing artistes can practise and research independently and in collaboration with other related fields.


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