Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Bali - A Play by Adishakti Laboratory for Theatre Arts Research

George and I went to watch Nimmi's play at Rangasharada. The hall was pretty full. We were joined by his friend Nandita, who is in the business of saving the environment. We ate a bit at the canteen which had a lovely assortment of food - kheema pav and some coffee. And some cake of sorts. Rangasharada is very particular that we all be seated before the show starts and with good reason. We were honored to have the director sit with us while we watched the play. A rather nervous director.

Adishakti is based in Pondicherry now. It started as a theatre company in Mumbai in 1981 and thereon went into research. It conducts its own plays and also conducts workshops. Its journey is fascinating and the work it does is equally amazing.

'Bali' retells the part of Ramayana where Rama kills Bali hiding behind a tree. The viewpoints of all the players are presented along with how it plays out in everyday life - sibling rivalry, right and wrong. The play shows both - the episode in Ramayana and a take on everyday life.

Bali, older brother of Sugriva, and ruler of Kishkindha, is challenged to a fight by the demon Mayavi. He enters a cave for the fight and tells Sugriva that if he sees blood coming out of the cave he should assume that Bali is dead and should seal the cave with a rock.

Blood comes out after a few days and Sugriva assumes that Bali is dead. He seals the cave and goes to Kishkindha, assumes the role of the king. Bali's queen now is his queen and his son is now his son. However Bali does not die - Mayavi does and he returns and banishes Sugriva. The dejected Sugriva asks Rama, who is in pursuit of Ravana, to help him kill Bali. Rama kills Bali hiding behind a tree.

The play was directed by Nimmi, our friend from the Unfestival. It's an interesting take on that incident in Bali's life - he is almost invincible with his power of drawing his opponent's strength, Sugriva only does what he is told so feels he has been shortchanged, Rama does what he does by hiding behind a tree and killing Bali. I had not much of a clue about Tara and Angad's role in the story but they had major roles in the play.

The performers were Vinay Kumar, Arvind Rane, Ashiqa Salvan, Kiyomi Mehta and Rijul Ray. Vinay Kumar as Bali was outstanding. Not to say that the others were not - they were all very good. I totally enjoyed the play. It was intense, funny. The effects were interesting. The changeover between the actual story and everyday life, seamless.

I asked Nimmi if she was happy with the way it turned out. Nimmi was not too happy with how it turned out but that's ok. I liked it. Always room for improvement. They have more shows for the next couple of days and then they are on the road for a long time - Shimoga, Macleadgunj, Nepal. The hall was pretty packed. George and I got another cup of coffee and after bidding farewell to Nimmi, walked all the way to a Metro station. I got off at Cubbon Park.

Good work Nimmi and Adishakti. I am very impressed. Do check out the Adishakti website. It's stunning.

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