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Pluralism and Performance : The Many Voices in Ramayana
Supported by Ford Foundation
Following up on 2009 Ramayana festival devoted to performative and visual representations of the Ramayana, Adishakti held a second festival on the Ramayana between March 10-19, 2010, on its campus. Jointly conceptualized by festival director Rustom Bharucha and the Artistic Director and Managing Trustee of Adishakti, Veenapani Chawla, the purpose of the festival was to explore and celebrate the plurality of this deeply internalized epic through diverse interpretations and performance traditions.
Encompassing a wide spectrum of emotional registers ranging from the devotional to the subversive, the festival of 2010 opened with Kavalam Panikkar’s new production in Hindi of Bhavabhuti’s Sanskrit classic Uttararamacarita. This was followed by the rarely seen Assamese traditional performance of Sattriya as performed by a troupe of 27 monks, who performed Sankaradeva’s Rama Vijaya. In contrast to the spiritual rigor and ecstasy of Sattriya, the Ramayana was represented in a more earthy and robust folk idiom through Yakshagana where the text focused on the exploits of Ravana’s charismatic son Indrajit. The festival ended with Kapila Nagavallikkunnel’s new interpretation of Sita through the intricate and stylized idiom of Nangyar Koothu, which elaborated on a verse drawn from Kalidasa’s Raghuvamsa.
In addition to these diverse theatrical renderings of the Ramayana, the festival also included vocal recitals by the renowned singer Aruna Sairam who did focus on the compositions of Thyagaraja and by Madan Gopal Singh, who drew on his knowledge of Sufi music to evoke his understanding of Rama. As a special treat for the festival, Indonesia’s leading dancer and choreographer Sardono Kusumo presented a solo performance drawing on the animist and mythic traditions of the Ramayana.
In addition to its focus on performance, the Ramayana festival is equally concerned with critical reflection. Therefore, as part of its overall structure, there were discussions following each performance involving the artists, the director, the translator, and leading critics in the field. Individual lectures on different aspects of the Ramayana ranging from its politics and contemporary relevance to more theoretical meditations on concepts like translation, was also part of the festival.
Intimate, yet intense in its attention to histrionic detail and complexity of narrative, this festival was aimed to foreground aesthetic and philosophical questions in a minimalist mode. In its emphasis on solo and ensemble performances as opposed to spectacle, it attempted to question how a festival can resonate with creative economy tuned to the immediacies of everyday life.
All performances and discussions were free and open to the public. We thank you for joining us on our journey of unraveling the mysteries and contradictions of our time through an epic that is at once ancient and contemporary, full of questions and enigmas; the Ramayana.