Review

UNDER THE GYPSY MOON

Direction : Akash Khurana

UNDER THE GYPSY MOON Play Review


Manvi Ranghar



 UNDER THE GYPSY MOON Review
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UNDER THE GYPSY MOON play review

UNDER THE GYPSY MOON brings to life the dreamscape epic of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's novel Srikanta. Performed on the large proscenium stage of the St. Andrews Auditorium, as part of Aadyam's (a theatre project by the Aditya Birla group) fourth edition, this adaptation of one of Bengali Literature's most acclaimed characters, is taken on by adept director Akash Khurana. He owns up to the "Sisyphean task of distilling the essence of the novel for the stage".

The play explores Shrikanta's life and his profound encounters with various women across India and Burma. The play condenses four volumes of the original text into a ninety-minute adroitly choreographed piece. Foregrounded dance sequences aim to depict the gentle yet strong women. The narrative flows through time and summons emotions, with the dreamlike waves that are Srikanta's memories, now recalled by him as the adult narrator under a steady moon.

A passive character of deep curiosity, Srikanta proves to be the canvas for the powerful femininity he encounters. As a child, he idealised the wild and pure Annada Didi, who has a selfless devotion to her worthless and abusive snake charmer-husband. As a young man, he meets Abhaya on his journey to Burma, and with whom he shares a love for Charles Dickens. Going against social norms of the time, Abhaya rejects her violent husband to live openly with her lover. Shrikanta also flirts with the possibility of becoming a sanyasi but is enamoured by Vaishnavi. In the end, he accepts the love of Pyari Baiji, who is pained, kind and beautiful, and Shrikanta dares to follow the socially unacceptable love as Pyari Baiji is regarded as an immoral woman.

Each story is as rich and humane as the next. The almost undeserving Srikanta is witness to the deep motivations of love and the devotion of these women. The privilege of glimpsing into a purity of spirit, even when it manifests as impurity of convention, is the real takeaway from the tales. However the female archetypes while alluring have changed over place and time and in that respect, one cannot miss an undercurrent of idolisation, watching the play from a more modern perspective.

UNDER THE GYPSY MOON play review


Set on a pastel stage, with several levels of the stage used to play out several levels of time, the remarkable design that translates into the dreamscape of the production unfolds under a massive moon and three tall trees, made otherworldly in complexion with expert light design. The production offers a skillful topography of the dream state. Dance, interchanging characters, time, illusions, and song sweep the story along its deliberate meanderings, and drive it to its inevitable end.

In spite of its creative stage and light design, the delivery by the actors is more prosaic and there are some shrieks veering towards those of the Indian television industry today! The actors are nonetheless aware of their place in the shifting and fleeting representations of the ethereal kind of atmosphere that subsumes the production. Enchanting as it is, the tales' elliptical folds and causalities create an apprehension of sorts, whether to submit to the flow, or to dissect and track the stories.

On being asked about the genre and the nature of Srikanta, the writer Sarat Chandra replied that it was "A collection of scattered memories - nothing else." Akash Khurana at the helm of UNDER THE GYPSY MOON captures this “scattering” with skill and a subtle hand, making for a beautiful experience.

*Manvi Ranghar is an actor, writer and environmentalist from Mumbai. She studied Literature and values freedom.

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