Sunday, June 5, 2011

Chimeras: Stripping the legends

Chimeras is an English play produced by One dot oh! and directed by Shrikrishna S, based on three short stories by Shashi Deshpande, shown at Rangashankara last week. It is a fusion of Dance and drama, the dance part choreographed by Chitra Aravind of Rhythmotion Dance Co. 

All stories portrayed are derived from various instances in Mahabharatha, and in each one a character introspects the events unfolded in front of them, giving new insights into the epic. The dance performances interwoven in between, suitably adds to the narrative. 
In the first story, Draupadi ventures into the hall were Krishna and Pandava princes are discussing their strategy of the imminent war against Kaurava. Abhimanyu's wedding with Uttara has just been over, and the talk of killing, destruction and the biggest war mankind has ever seen provides striking contrast to the mood. All are unilateral in their opinion that before war is commenced, a peace talk with Duryodhana has to be done, to avoid mutual killing. They propose Krishna to meet up with them and ask for half the kingdom. If they do not agree, at least for five villages. Draupadi is devastated after hearing about the peace talk. She feels she was the real casualty of the enmity with Kauravas and her husbands are not ready to give justice to her. She makes a monologue, exposing the cowardice of her five husbands and Krishna's double standards. Many ghosts of past comes out from the open Pandora's box.  Her special love towards Arjuna, her disappointment when brothers decide to share her after hearing Kunti's words... But finally she comes to know of the futility of peace talk. She knows that they will not get anything out of that. She also comes to know that her husbands also know that and war is what they want. They are playing this game to make her and her revenge responsible to the imminent destruction. 

In the second story, the war has come to a bloody end. All Kaurava princes except Duryodhana are dead. He fled the battle field and come near a dirty pond. His mind is all in turmoil. In the resulting monologue, he bears out his past jealousy and enmity towards Pandavas. And after he descends into the pond, a realization comes to him, that these are all superficial and what lies ahead is what that matters. That the real and final victory comes for the dead. Armed by this new found wisdom, Duryodhana comes out of the pond to fight the enemies and embrace death.  

The third story happens some time after the war, Dhritharashtra and Gandhari gets ready to go to the jungle. Kunti decides to accompany them much to the dismay of others. Along with Sanjaya, they embarks on Vanaprastha. One day Kunti decides to leave the old couple so that they can spent some time for themselves and goes for a walk with Sanjaya. She thinks of the past events, from the time she married Pandu, her loveless marriage, sharing her husband with the more beautiful Madhuri, her children, birth of Karna, the many hardships they had to encounter. She confesses that her words to share Draupadi among her five sons was not accidental and a well thought plan to avoid them getting divided. She is amazed when Draupadi shows more affection to Gandhari after the war than to her and realizes that it is due to the fact that both Draupadi and Gandhari are childless and Kunti still has her five children safe. Through her talk to Sanjaya, we come to know that Kunti is not that silent, all suffering mother who always get sidelined. It is infact, many of the clever decisions that she took shaped up the history. Play ends when a wild fire engulfs the forest and Kunti sees her old companions ready to embrace death. She walks towards fire to join them. 

The play is spell binding in many aspects. The acting, dance performances and stage setting all are perfect. The insightful dialogue makes strong impact. The play strips the mighty legends off the mystery that surrounds them and makes them share the pedestal with common people. The contemporary undertones of the play also cannot be ignored. Several parts especially in the first story makes you remember the conflict with our neighboring country.