My new play Bommanahalliyile Kinnara Yogi is premiered on 14th May 2010 at 6.30 at Changampuzha park Edappalli, Kochi, Kerala. This play is written , designed and directed by me based on a Kannada poem by Kuvempu and is performed by Mazhavillu the childrens theatre group, Kochi.
In this beautiful and imaginative adaptation of Browning’s Pied Piper, Kuvempu retains almost all of the original imagery and structure; still the transformation into the Kannada cultural milieu is complete and authentic; the outlook and characteristics of the people and the narrative mode are completely localized to Kannada culture, perspective and expression.
In Kuvempu poem is pungent with increased irony, pun, humor and have the weirdness of abstraction than the original. The structure of the performance text derived from this poem, naturally will be that of a poetic narrative, sung and enacted by a group of singer-actors. These singers might have traveled through ages and have witnessed/ inherited the poetry from ancestors. The singers join and attach themselves to the action as and when needed, and detach subsequently; they represent the people of the village. This continuous travel from character to singer-narrator and back will give an air of informality and provide a relaxed pursuit to the spectator.
The meaning and objective of this production is basically achieved through the rendering of the characters and their depiction. Each character is delineated and represented in specific exposé so that the narrative is developed into a form that relates to the contemporary reality and time.
Gowder is a usual, inefficient village-chief interested in nothing except collecting taxes, eating and sleeping. He has a big dog to scare people who complains; and is surrounded by a group of worthless intellectuals and advisers, unable to bring about solution to any problem. In a shift from the poem, the Gowda do not offer 6000 gold coins to Yogi, as reward to killing the rats. He offered this amount to any villager to keep his people silent from complaining, and was sure that none will come with any solution. One of the villager in turn told Jogi about this announcement. In fact the village does not have that much money in hand to spare, and Gowda was positioned in between an ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to Yogi.
The Kinnara Yogi character is particularly beguiling. Yogi is a performer and charmer who have immense ability to allure people. He boasts that he is the friend of lord Siva and Vishnu and has eradicated rats from Kailasa and Viakunta. And he insists that he shall get the money for his services. The space of the Yogi seems at the meeting point of the world meets with the legends, myths and fantasy; he has a link to mundane and with the imaginary. But he is alien to the rustic simplicity of the rural Bommanahalli and comes from a far away place with some odd objectives which the simpletons of the village cannot recognize. They are victims to the existing practice of the Gowda, the rat attack and later to the ploy of Yogi.
The rats are naughty and daring; they do all kinds of mischief, snatch the headgear of Gowda, and run a parallel government. They are represented with half masks, puppetry (glove, stick and hand) along with physicalisation and speak in a gibberish-rat language and/or also in Malayalam. In a metamorphosis the rats throw the headgears/masks/ and puppets to the river at the end of the play, and take the role of children.
The story of the pied piper is narrated direct and simple in this transparent and candid presentation; it is attempted to create a cosmos of the exuberance, earthiness, and hurdles of the rural life where various ecosystems co-exist. The people, Gowda and his men, artist/singers, Bhattas, cat, dog, rats, river and hills coexist to form a complete and balanced universe, mutually complimenting and completing.
Towards the end of the play the people understands the pain of the lone rat and decides not to kill it. The dog understands the reasoning of the people; the lament of the lame child who lost the heaven to be left in this unhappy world reverberates to the sensitivity of the people. It is the empathy with which men and animals understand and responds reciprocally that expresses the mutuality of existence subtly but clearly.
The play is basically designed for a proscenium, but extends beyond even to the outside of the theatre in the finale scene. The actors assemble around the installation of a Yogi effigy pronouncing that the story of Yogi happened many years before. As a tribute the Yogi story is performed every year and to end the performance they set fire to the Yogi effigy, as reminiscent in Ramleela and many other ritual performances.
The performance structure design and form is derived from many narrative forms from various living traditions. The first part is more hilarious, humorous, and slapstick; the entry of Yogi shifts into a musical narrative where the actors, sing, dance and perform the characters. Use of imaginative sets, properties and music suggest the space, characters, time, as well as the cultural/ political implications of the play.
The narrative of the play is straight, simple, and transparent that is relating to the hilarity and humor of the narration. The performance language is designed so as to give the space for creativity and the histrionic talent of the children, the whole process of rehearsal was exhilarating to the little actors; a scheme of rehearsal and play making that was more process oriented than the product.
AISWARYA.M • ALEX.J.PULIMOOD • AMAL • AMAR MOHAN • AMRITRAJ S • ARVIND AJAY • ARAVIND.R • ARUN.A • ASWATHY.K.S • DILJAZ • JAYASURYA.J • GOURI KRISHNA • GOVIND NAMBIAR • GOWRI MURALI • INKITA INESH • JAYABHAMI.J • JEYASURIYAA.M.A • K.DEVASREE MOHAN • K.N.DHRUVAKUMAR • K.N.MEENAKSHI • KARTHIKA S. • KIRAN XAVIER • MANUTIOUS • NIKHIL VISHWAM • RAMAKRISHNAN • RITHUL • ROHIN.K • SABAREESH.M.A• SREENANDINI• UNNIMADHAV EDANILATH • UNNIMAYA EDANILATH • VARADA • VIJAY KRISHNAN
Art & Properties — ANOOP S KALARICKAL
Set & Sound - JOLLY ANTONY
Live percussion — KISHORE NK & AYYAPPA THEJUS
Vocal support — AARSHA CHANDANAVATTAM, AADARSH & MANIKANTAN
Costumes — SHIRLY SOMASUNDARAN & REMA K NAIR
Direction Assistance – SARATH R NATH
Music & Lighting— GIREESH MENON
Production Assistance – HARIKRISHNAN & CHARU NARAYANAN
Media Management – MADAN KOLAVIL
Original Poem — KUVEMPU
Text, Design & Direction - CHANDRADASAN
Presentation – MAZHAVILLU, KOCHI, KERALA.