SHAKUNTHALAM- A TALE OF THE HUNT
The whole process of this production was initiated from the query, why Shakuntalam now? The performance takes a leap from the torturing summer of the present day to the tranquil summer as depicted by Kalidasa. This performance probes the plot with an eco-feministic sensibility and hence the story of the signet ring, the curse of Durvasa and the reunion in Act 6 and 7 are deemphasized so as to highlight the relationship between Shakuntala and Dushyanta.The hunt itself become a metaphor with myriad connotations. The king hunts into the serene Ashram which is all blushed with flowering creepers, the vanajyotsna, lathanikunj, deer, birds, lotuses, water bodies, cool wind, flower beds and the music from the rustling leaves… A perfect set for love and unison, as typical, dreamlike and poetic as in any of the Kalidasa literature. To this throbbing and reverberating sensuousness, hunts in Dushyanta on a chariot that can affect and de-harmonise the serenity and peace of the hamlet, with his arrows of flower and a bow of sugar cane… Shakuntala and her friends are innocent and pristine as nature. Dushyanta is none other than Kamadev embodied, assisted by his aides with the ability to sensualise the innocence of the feminine essence with the arrows of flowers. Dushyanta bitten by the heat of love, lingers back in the lush greenery of the forest trying all his wits and craft, embodying and recreating the honeybee, elephant, and the Rakshasas as a pretext to save Shakuntala and hence succeeds to court her in a Gandharva marriage, eventually to forget her. Dushyanta is a ‘lover’ with many women in his life and as his friend Vidushaka points out, after eating all the ripe fruits of the city, he is eying at the ‘imli’ (Tamarind) in Shakuntala. The relationship between Shakuntala and Dushyanta is used as a parable to understand the continuing falsehood of love that focuses on the body of the female than true man-woman understanding and mutual inclusion. In the end Shakuntala is forced to call Dushyanta as ‘Anarya’ when love subsides into recognition of the reality. Subtle references to racial constructs, rural/tribal conflicts, essence and meaning of ‘culture’, sophistication etc. are interwoven as the subplots in the narration. The words and lines written by Kalidasa is acquiring a new meaning and are able to resonate deeper connotations in this re-reading of the text. This performance text is a counter writing of the play on stage, without admiring or negating the text written by Kalidasa. Towards the end of the play Dushyanta declare in an ephemeral, scanty and derisory explosion of histrionics that he remember Shakuntala and offers the ring back to her, which she graciously rejects saying that she do not believe in that ring any more. She is taken by nature/birds in a dreamlike serenity of independence and comradery of fellow women.
The play at another level is a visual translation of the poetry of Kalidasa using paintings, properties, lighting, music and movement, making the performance as a visual delight with an underscore of pain and separation. The atmosphere, art, music, movement and the ethnic ethos represent a pahadi culture which is in contrast to that of the urban; the performance body trying to alienate from the usual renditions of the classic.
Chandradasan, founder and artistic director of Lokadharmi Centre for Theatre Kochi, is a designer, director, actor, writer and translator. His productions include adaptations of the Classics (Western and Indian), Shakespeare, contemporary plays, improvised and devised productions, poetry and short story performances, comedies, and children’s plays. He has designed and directed about 50 plays in Malayalam, Kannada, Finnish, Hindi, Lithuanian, Tamil, Sanskrit, and English which includes 10 plays for children.
With his body of work Chandradasan has visited United States of America, Finland, Lithuania, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Greece to direct plays, conduct workshops, participate in seminars, conduct research, and perform in Festivals
He is also a published writer of original plays, articles on theatre/performance studies in reputed journals and periodicals both in English and Malayalam.
His important works include Karnnabharam, Kaali Naadakam, Thathamaram, Viswavikhyathamaya Mookku, Draupadi, Lankalakshmi, Medea, Agleyum Cliyopatrayum, Charandas Chor, and Poranadi
He is the recipient of the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi award 2004, META award for best play 2008, Fulbright-Nehru Fellowship for professional and academic excellence 2014, the best playwright award by Kerala Bala Sahitya Institute 2015, the Senior Fellowship in theatre 2016 etc.
About the Group
LOKADHARMI is a Centre for theatre training, research and performance, established in 1991 by a collective of theatre enthusiasts in Kochi, Kerala, India.
It started with a membership of 25 and has now expanded to a strong team of 300 members. It is registered under The Travancore-Cochin Literary, Scientific and Charitable Societies Registration Act, 1955. Lokadharmi is empaneled by ICCR, affiliated to Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi and with the department of Culture, Government of India.
Lokadharmi also has a wing for children known as Mazhavillu (rainbow) where kids below the age of fifteen are trained and exposed to theatre.
Lokadharmi group has extensively toured India with several of its productions and has about 550 performances to its credit till date. It has performed in many of the important international and national theatre festivals, receiving much critical and popular acclaim. This includes Bharat Rang Mahotsav, the International Theatre Festival of India at New Delhi, the International Festival of Ancient Greek Drama in Greece held in the cities of Pelos, Kalamatta and Athens, India Theatre Olympiad Cuttack, and in the International Theatre Festival of Kerala.
As an institution focusing on theatre through its plays and related activities, Lokadharmi can rightfully take credit for reviving a creative ambience for theatre activities in the city of Kochi, inspiring many to look at theatre with solemnity.
Lokadharmi is presently building a space for theatre, research and performance at Nayarambalam, Vypin islands, which was inaugurated on 27th of March 2017. After that many a theatre workshops with theatre activists from all over the globe including Kathleen Mulligan (Ithaca, USA), Deepan Sivaraman, Patrick Vella (Malta), Linda Alper (USA), Usha Ganguli, Swathi Mohan (New Delhi), Pirkko Kurikka, & Tuire Hindikka (Finland), Mariana Silva, Juan Cruz Bracamontes, (Aegentina) Andrea Diaz (Mexico) Erin Mee (NY, USA) etc are engaged in many workshops focussing on different aspects of acting meant for aspiring and practicing actors, children and also fr professionals from corporates were done.
Lokadharmi has started a unique program of theatre, film, dance, music, traditional folk and classic performances, poetry and literature on all second Saturday evenings that attracts cultural enthusiasts to perform and also to be the audience.
Major Productions of Lokadharmi
Lokadharmi has established itself as one of the foremost theatre companies in India with 37 productions, of which 8 are collaborative works with different theatre groups in India and abroad and 8 children’s plays.
Beginning with Karnnabharam (1992), its maiden play, Lokadharmi has always remained in the cultural spotlight of Kochi with successive programmes which include plays, theatre workshops and seminars. ‘Karnnabharam’, won the coveted Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) in 2008 for Best Play, Best Costume Design and Best Stage Design. With it, Lokadharmi became the first regional language group to bag META accolades.
The major productions of Lokadharmi include Medea (Euripides), Poranadi (the outcaste by Kavalam Narayana Panikkar), Karnabharam (The anguish of Karna, by Bhasa) and Lankalakshmi (by C.N. Sreekantan Nair) Draupadi (Chandradasan), VisvavikhyathamayaMookku– The world renowned Noose (based on the story by Vaikom Muhammed Basheer), Chathankattu (The Tempest – William Shakespeare), Agleyum Cliyopatrayum (Chandradasan), Andha Yug (Dharmaveer Bharathi), Charandas Chor (Habib Tanvir), Thathamaram (Chandradasan) etc.