An erotic tale aesthetically told
DIWAN SINGH BAJELI
"Malavikagnimitram", staged by NSD students, was a visual delight.
PERIOD FLAVOUR A scene from "Malavikagnimitram"
Though Kalidasa's "Shakuntala" is frequently seen on the stage in different forms, styles and with different interpretations, his "Malavikagnimitram" is little known to the Hindi theatre-goers. It was staged by the second-year students of the National School of Drama at Bahumukh Auditorium this past week, which reveals a rare aesthetic sensibility, erotic fantasy and dramatic splendour through a theatrical form that blends music, drama, dance, poetry and painting. Rich in comic undertones, the production will be remembered for its visual and aural delights, which transport the audience to an ancient Indian kingdom with its royal intrigues and erotic rendezvous.
Translated from Sanskrit into Hindi by Bhagvat Sharan Upadhyay, "Malavikagnimitram" on the surface deals with the infatuation of King Agnimitra for Malavika, an accomplished dancer and a slave girl. The king seems to spend almost all his time in pursuit of erotic pleasures. He has already two wives - Dharini and Iravati. Intoxicated by the exquisite beauty and youth of Malavika, the king's attention is diverted from Iravati, who was once the apple of his eye, towards Malavika. His consuming desire for the slave girl infuriates the two queens.
To achieve his heart's desire, he seeks the help of his Brahmin pal, the Vidushaka. Clever as he is, Vidushaka manipulates events to enable the king and Malavika to come closer without being noticed by the jealous queens.
What makes the production meaningful is the exploration of the erotic rasa and deeper insight into the hearts of lovers. This is an unusual kind of love between a king and a slave girl who is innocent, tender and a great artiste. It also provides us with some information about the infighting between local kings and warlords in ancient India. On the stage only the aesthetic-erotic theme is enacted, the references to war and the disintegration of small states of the vanquished rulers is conveyed through dialogue.
The play is directed by K.S. Rajendran, a member of the NSD faculty, who has experience of directing non-realistic plays ranging from the works of Jean Genet to Na. Muthuswamy's "Kottiyakkaran", from Brecht's plays to the realistic works of Vijay Tendulkar. With his grounding in the classical Sanskrit drama and stage, he displayed remarkable perceptivity in designing and directing "Malavikagnimitram". Beautiful choreographic patterns by Raj Kumar, Hindi lyrics by V. K. and music score by Bhaskar Chandavarkar of "Ghasiram Kotwal" fame are blended in a manner to create an artistic whole. Amba Sanyal's costumes added pleasing colour to the production as well as period flavour.
A finely tuned production, sets by H.V. Sharma are simple. He has created three different levels on the floor of the auditorium with audience sitting on three sides, creating an intimate theatre.In Kalidasa's "Shakuntala", the crisis is caused by the curse of Durvasa, which sets further developments afoot. In "Malavikagnimitram", it is Vidushaka who creates complications and carries the story forward. It is intrigues and the failure of his mission that are the comic sources of the play. King Dushyanta of Shakuntala is not only a lover but also a conscientious ruler. Agnimitra is occupied mainly with erotic pursuits.
The visual beauty of the production is enhanced with the fine treatment of the fertility rites and the blooming of the Ashoka tree. The production also illustrates the power of art on the human mind. Agnimitra's first encounter with Malavika is through her depiction in a painting, which make him desperate to see this beauty in flesh and blood.
C.R. Padmashree as Malavika gives a fine performance. Her Malavika is endowed with rare beauty and is an accomplished dancer. She reveals the ebb and flow of the heart of a young girl in love. Through her facial expressions and delicate stylised movements she conveys the agony and ecstasy of first love. Living incognito as a slave girl, she retains the dignity of her royal origin. Manish Kumar Mishra's Agnimitra is sensitive and cultivated, who treats Malavika with dignity, seeking a shared emotional experience. Arun Mallick as Vidushaka imparts comic rhythm to the production.
Send this article to Friends by
Chennai and Tamil Nadu