Professor Waman Kendre is an alumnus of the National School of Drama (NSD), and is presently Head of the Department of Theatre Arts at Mumbai University. He has directed a number of plays such as ZULVA, JAANEMAN, MOHANDAS, and others. His latest venture is an adaptation of Sanskrit playwright Bhasa's MADHYAM VYAVOG in three different languages. The three productions- O MY LOVE (English), MOHE PIYA (Hindi) and PRIYA BAWARI (Marathi) will open on 3rd July 2011 at the NCPA Experimental Theatre. Professor Kendre shares his thoughts about the production. Please click here to read about the Play.
What sparked off the idea of reviving a Sanskrit work? Why Bhasa?
I have been very busy with my involvement in The Academy of Theatre Arts, and over the last few years although I was involved in productions for my students, I haven't done any mainstream work. My audience was missing me, and urging me to put something up on stage, so I decided to do a work from a genre otherwise not easily accessible. My earlier work too has been involved in showcasing things that aren't run-of-the-mill or seen, like ZULVA a play that talked about Devdasis, or JAANEMAN, which was about eunuchs. I chose this play to give my audiences a new experience, a play that was not similar to anything I have done earlier. I didn't want to present a copy or a Xerox of something already around. I wanted to take up virgin-content and make it accessible. This play signifies a rich and strong tradition, which has been an integral part of my research on classical Indian Theatre. Besides that, my association with ritual theatre helped me understand aspects of stylization which are at the crux of this production. The play is merely eight pages long as a script, but in performance it stretches upto 95 mins.
Another reason I chose the text was for its content, which is extremely universal. Hidimba is a figure of contemporary dilemmas and the play is bound to strike a chord with a modern day audience. Her relationship with Bhima is similar in many ways to the relationships of today- live-in relationships, companionships, contract marriages and other such forms of relationships that exist today.
You have already staged a production of MADHYAM VYAYOG earlier. How is this different from the earlier one?
That one was purely for my students. It was done mainly to introduce them to concepts and techniques. That production therefore stuck loyally to the original text and its format. It was performed in vilambit laya, and we took fewer liberties with the text.
Why did you choose to present the play in three languages?
I initially intended to present a play with unusual form and content in Marathi alone. But then I thought language shouldn't be a barrier so I extended it to Hindi. A few friends abroad have been requesting I take my work there too. I don't want to go and dance before NRIs. If at all I go there I want to showcase my work there as part of a tradition, and again I didn't want the obstacle of language. Thus I went on to adapt it to English as well. The script was adapted by me with inputs from some of the actors and from Amol Deshmukh for the Marathi text, and from Sandhya Salve and Shakir Tasneem for the Hindi version.
Sanskrit texts have their own aesthetics of performance. Have you made any variation/innovations in staging?
What I have used in staging the play is a mere hint of Sanskrit aesthetics, just the smell of it. Though several elements of the Natya Shastra appear, they are dealt with in a new way. Conventions, structures, gestures, rhythm have all been employed but not as directly. Besides, these characters are from mythology. It would be absurd and misfitting if Hidamba performed sophisticated mudras. But yes, there are some highy elaborate movements. For example, there is an eight minute scene with no dialogue. Music too is an integral part of the play. I have composed the music myself and it is rustic in nature to complement the text.
Translations can be problematic. Three languages are rather risky...
I have tried to rediscover the text. It is a liberal adaptation, but we have retained the emphasis on the sounds of words. The text is to be heard, and we paid special attention to the way language is used, for only then will the play convert to saundarya anubhuti (aesthetic experience) with a poetic quality. There is a lyricism we've maintained in dialogue too. At the same time we have probed deeper into the text, rediscovered its layers and presented it differently.
How are you expecting the audience to respond to the play?
Hidimba's story is bound to touch the audience. We have presented the story from her point of view, so I think modern women will identify with her. The story too is about the politics of love, of family and of relationships, so everyone will find something in it. As an experience too, it will be unique and one that holds a socio-political message.
*Asma Ladha holds a Master's degree in English Literature and Applied Linguistics. She is an applied linguist, a freelance critic, a research student and a poet.