Event Synopsis:. The plot of Hayavadana comes from Kathasaritsagara, an ancient compilation of stories in Sanskrit. Language: English. Age guidance: Above 12 years. Directed by: N Ravi Kumar.

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The Industrial Theatre Co's production with its own set of distinct embellishments, seeks to give the tale, already possessing of much contemporary resonance, the quality of a latter-day fable. It does so by employing a zestful ensemble of young actors who speak a modern dialect while still adhering closely to the original text. The proscenium stage at the K R Cama Hall is kicked behind, and the auditorium floor itself becomes a kind of wrestling pit that seems to be the perfect setting for the mind games and sexual power play that is to take centrestage between Padmini Preetika Chawla and the two men in her life-the wrestler-type Kapil Vivek Gomber who embodies brawn with all its superficial lustre, and the tender-wristed poet of peerless faculty but suspect judgement, Devdutt Prashant Prakash.

With cinematographer Pushan Kripalani and light-designer Arghya Lahiri at the helm of affairs, there is certainly a distinct aesthetic sensibility on display which creates that illusion of opulence even if the set-design by Dhanendra Kawade, is actually a spartan affair with several dhurries on all sides marking out a square, over which hang preening Chinese lanterns.

The actual light fixtures are hoisted on the banisters above, and contribute to what is a rather well-lit production, which each subtle shift of mood illuminated with as much care as more emphatic changes of time or season or location. As the play begins, the actors animatedly engage in a display of bonhomie as they flit around like party-hosts. Prithvi Theatre's resident flautist, Suhas Joshi, provides musical accompaniment along with Rahul Sharma and lends the play some of his trademark gravitas, while also aiding the idea that this is a performance within another as the actors themselves sometimes fall to the side and sit in as live spectators to the going-ons, barely concealing their wonderment at the Pandora's box of mortal follies that's supposedly opening up before them.

All of this does seem to be rather stage-managed to the point that the actors almost seem to be intruding into their own space.

This is where the production acquires the slightest sheen of artifice. It would all be very well if the actual audience, seated all around in stodgy office-chairs, were to imbibe the same enthusiasm for the unfolding themes, and that is something that isn't immediately clear.

They explain the proceedings-a narrator is something contemporary theatre can hardly do without-and also divvy up the bit parts amongst themselves. A sequence at a temple where Padmini is disconsolate given that both her paramours have beheaded themselves, the irrepressible Ms Irani descends upon us as the Goddess Kali in a sensational gothic avatar, with all the regal swagger and pithy humour that entails, sticking her tongue out with rib-tickling panache.

In another scene, where Kapil scours an unfamiliar bazaar to locate Padmini's home, the trio spring bamboo mats upon us like doors to houses, each hiding a speciality act, like a squawking parakeet or a talking chimpanzee. Mr Saha, particularly, has a penchant for throwing an echoing voice almost with the gumption of a ventriloquist, and the audience laps up each falling register with much mirth.

However it is left to the three principal characters to carry on their shoulders the over-arching themes of the play. Given the pedigree of the performers, it may seem that they are up to the task.

The central dilemma of the play concerns itself with Padmini having to choose between the polar identities represented by the two men. Married to Devdutt, she yearns for Kapil. When the Goddess Kali comes to her rescue, she can bring the two beheaded men to life but instead of giving each body its rightful head, she mixes things up. The choices that Padmini make casts her as a woman who disingenuously uses a moral argument to give in to her deepest desires, almost a Sanskrit-era expression of feminine sexuality, if you will.

For all of Devdutt's mental acuity which she claims to be of prime importance, it's the odour of Kapil's body that enthuses her. The last couple of years has seen the blossoming of Ms Chawla as a proficient actress in her own right, and she is technically able to take on this material and perform it adequately but only just. While the premise is played out in comedic fashion, Ms Chawla's persona of a child-woman with a burgeoning sensuality doesn't take her character all the way.

She doesn't attempt to access the deeper recesses of Padmini's psyche. Mr Gomber's Kapil, however, benefits from his rawness as a performer. His gauche appeal and full-on enthusiasm makes him a full-hearted presence on stage; although he doesn't quite inhabit Devdutt's persona quite as invincibly, when the heads are transposed.

With the scales tipping in favor of superficial allure or the primacy of carnal bonding rather than a meeting of minds, Mr Prakash as Devdutt props up the action in a thankless part that grows more unsympathetic as the play progresses, and coming across more than a victim than an archetypal presence in his own right. That is a pity, because there is an enduring power to Karnad's text, that provokes you to think, but the trio of actors, sincere perfomers that they are, don't quite create the balance that would give weight to either side of the eternal stand-off.

Born out of an argument Mr Karnad had with B V Karanth about the use of masks and music in Indian theatre, this production's use of masks only extends itself to the figurative, with the talking horse Mr Saha with his head framed in wiring shaped like a horse's head amounting to little more than a non-sequitur. It remains an enjoyable evening at the theatre, and a perfect outing for the festive season.

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The play opens with a puja to Ganesha, as the Bhagavata asks that Ganesha bless the performance that he and the company are about to put on. Then he places the audience in the setting of the play, Dharmapura, and begins to introduce the central characters. The first is Devadatta , the son of a Brahmin who outshines the other pundits and poets of the kingdom. The second is Kapila , the son of the iron-smith who is skilled at physical feats of strength.



These notes were contributed by members of the GradeSaver community. The play opens with a prayer ritual performed by Hindus to the god Ganesha, who has the head of an elephant and the body of a boy. The Narrator asks that Ganesha blesses the performance that he and the assembled company are about to perform, and then tells the audience that the play is set in Dharmapura, before introducing the central characters, close friends Devadatta and Kapila. A scream comes from pffstage and an actor runs on screaming that he has just seen a man with the head of a horse and a human voice. The Narrator doesn't believe him and even when the creature enters he thinks a prank is being played and that the horse head is actually a mask. He tries to pull it off but realizes it is a real head.


HAYAVADANA play review

The play was inspired by Thomas Mann's 'The Transposed Heads', which in turn borrowed from a Sanskrit tale from the Kathasaritsagara, an ancient compilation of stories in Sanskrit. Karnad's play takes the tale of human identity further by exploring the tangled relationships of Padmini, Devadatta and Kaplia- the principal characters in the story. The sub-plot of Hayavadana, the man with the head of the horse is symbolic of the main theme of incompleteness. Register Login. Toggle navigation Register Login.

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