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A gripping tale of Greek revenge and royalty

ROMESH CHANDER

A fine effort by the final year students of NSD who presented a Hindi adaptation of some Greek classics.



RELIVING MYTHOLOGY: A scene from "The Trojan War "presented by final year students of the National School of Drama.

It must be a rare experience for the final year students of National School of Drama presenting Mohan Maharishi's Hindi translation of "The Trojan War," three short plays based on the Greek classics by Euripides and Aeschylus and adapted by John Barton and Kenneth Cavander. The production was directed by John Clark, a well known director from Australia.

As the lights come on the specially constructed open-air stage, Muktangan, we see a beautiful set of awesome dimensions created by Peter Cooks, internationally famous designer from Australia. As Ashok Sagar Bhagat's lighting design lights up the stage, we are struck by his mastery in underlining the environment as also the mood.

Ten drummers usher in the play and as they exit, an Old Man (Tanmoy Sarkar) introduces us to the play. "Nearly 4000 years ago, Agamemnon, King of Mycenae and leader of the Greek world, set out to invade the Asian city of Troy. What was the reason for this war? Paris, Prince of Troy, once paid a visit to Menelaus, king of Sparta. Paris stole Menelaus' wife Helen and took her back to Troy. This was an insult to all of Greece. Troy must be punished. A fleet of 1000 ships was gathered on the seashore at . Aulis. But there is no wind to carry the ships to Troy. The ships have been stuck in the sands for months. The Goddess Artemis has stopped the wind. She does not want the war to take place and has told Agamemnon in secret that if he wants the wind to blow he must pay a price for it. He must sacrifice - he must kill his favourite daughter, Iphigenia."

Thus begins the first play, "Iphigenia in Aulis", by Euripides.

Agamemnon sends a letter to his wife Clytemnestra asking her to bring her daughter Iphigenia for she is to be married to Achilles, a Greek officer. After the letter is sent he changes his mind and another letter cancelling the first letter is despatched. But the second letter never reaches her and the mother and daughter arrive in Aulis. In a well-delivered speech, Neetu Sharma playing the character of Clytemnestra pleads that he spare their daughter.

One of the officers describes the sacrifice to Iphigenia's mother, "We heard a blow, a thud, but the girl herself had gone and we saw on the ground a beautiful deer, gasping for life. Artemis had sent a wild deer in place of the girl... the Goddess had accepted the gift... " And so Iphigenia died and came alive again.

After a short interval we move on to "The Trojan Women", based on the play by Euripides.

The Greeks have destroyed Troy, the royal family has been captured along with many other Trojan women who became slaves in Greece. Upstage is a huge horse that is beautifully lit, and down stage are lying asleep Hecuba the queen of Troy, Poyxenea her daughter and the chorus of Trojan women.

Enters Agamemnon who in a longish speech tells us what had happened and that he was taking Cassandra, the king's daughter.

And as he exits, Hecuba makes up and tells us about herself... "Wake up, wake up my children you are widows now, Troy is burning." Towards the end we have some well-delivered lines between Cassandra (Neha Saraf), Helen (Hema Bisht), Tafthybaus (Sajjad Hussain) and Andronche (Swati Sharma) in different roles. Ujjala Barman as Hecuba is also good towards the end when she says, "We are going to be slaves. The city is vanishing... I can see nothing but smoke... our city has no home now, come we have get to go and became slaves." A most touching end to a beautiful play well delivered.

The third play is "Agamemnon" based on the Greek original by Aeschylus. While Agamemnon is away in Troy Clytemnestra has taken a lover, Aligisthus. After 10 years Agamemnon comes home with a new mistress Cassandra. As the lights come on, we see the men now dressed in modern clothes, the women as in the earlier two plays are in period costumes, while the chorus has a sprinkling of the modern and old. A very interesting way of giving the play a contemporary touch.The Old Man of the earlier plays is there to provide the link and sum up for us what has taken place. As Clytemnestra breaks the good news that the Greeks have captured Troy, some don't believe it and ask how the news came so fast. Clytemnestra tells them of the ancient ways of transmitting messages.

Agamemnon returns and his wife wants to arrange a royal welcome but he wants to be "treated like a man and not a God. My fame does not need these frills". Here is a message for the demi gods of today, the netas big and small.

The exchange between the queen Cassandra and the chorus is yet another highlight of the presentation in which Neha Saraf is totally different from her Cassandra of "Trojan Women".

The end carries a strong message of peace as the Old Man says, "Orestes is alive. O'ye Gods guide the fleet of Orestes" and the chorus joins in: "bring his avenging sword to rid the earth of these monsters." Well done, final year students! And thanks to the director John Clark for helping you and giving us a beautiful interpretation of three short plays by the Greeks.

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