Ramayana Festival 2011

Pluralism and Performance : The Many Voices in Ramayana

Supported by Ford Foundation



Adishakti Ramayana Festival 2011 is the third in a series of festivals devoted to exploring the pluralist dimensions of the Ramayana through diverse performance, musical and visual traditions of the epic.

For this particular festival, there will be an attempt to broaden the South Asian context of the Ramayana to include conceptual and creative inputs from Southeast Asia . In the process, a critical dialogue will be initiated across artists and scholars from India , Thailand , Indonesia and Malaysia .

Intimate in scale, the festival is structured around lectures and critical reflections in the morning, and performances in the evening. At least three of the performances in this year’s festival are contemporary solo interpretations of the Ramayana , which evoke a wide range of emotional registers encompassing the devotional and the iconoclastic.

Pichet Klunchun , Thailand ‘s leading contemporary dancer and choreographer, performs I am a Demon , which is a deconstruction of the role of Ravana in the khon tradition as it was taught to him by his guru. Mugiyono Kasido from Solo, Indonesia , presents a meditative reflection on Shinta’s Memory drawing on the syncretic and animist traditions of Indonesian performing arts. Drawing on her background in kathakali and improvisation, Maya Krishna Rao creates a new manifestation of Ravana in a work entitled Ravanama .

In addition, Bharati Shivaji, the notable exponent of mohiniyattam , will be re-inventing her traditional idiom in a new piece entitled Sita Parinamam . Covering the semi-classical and folk styles of Indian vocal traditions, the festival will feature the renowned Pandit Channulal Mishra who will open the festival with a tribute to Tulsidas, in addition to Manganiar and Meghwal singers from Rajasthan who will sing Ram bhajans, which are rarely performed in public. The festival will end with a robust and socially incisive production of RamaRavana , a new work produced by Kattaikkuttu Sangam.

The lecture series of the festival includes some of India’s leading luminaries—the historian Romila Thapar, reflecting on variants in the Rama – katha ; the cultural theorist and thinker Ashis Nandy teasing out the enigmas of heroic and unheroic heroes; the art historian Gulam Sheikh on the visual traditions of the Ramayana ; the writer C.S.Lakshmi on the creative processes and outputs of grandmother’s stories; and the funding director and cultural critic Anmol Vellani, who will reflect on the ecological limits of the creative industries today.

From Indonesia , the festival features Sal Murgiyanto, the leading dance critic of Indonesia , who will reflect in an autobiographical mode on the ethical and creative impact of the Ramayana on his life, while I Wayan Dibia from Bali will present a philosophical inquiry into the concept of taksu via Balinese performance traditions.

From Thailand, we have two presentations—one by Paritta Koanantakool, who will draw on her knowledge of shadow puppet traditions to reflect on the dynamics of light and reflection, and the other by Pornrat Damrhung, who will demonstrate how the Ramakien , the Thai version of the Ramayana , provides material for contemporary critiques of society and patriarchy.

From Malaysia , we have Eddin Khoo, a leading writer, translator, journalist, and researcher of traditional performance, who will draw on his rich exposure to Wayang Kelantan to reflect on the more turbulent manifestations of the epic.

The festival also features Paula Richman, an internationally recognized authority on the diverse readings of ‘many Ramayanas’, whose lecture on Ravana will be followed by a screening of Mani Ratnam’s Raavanan (the Tamil version of his film). This film will serve as a point of reference for an open discussion on contemporary narratives of the Ramayana , which will be initiated by the cultural critic A.R.Venkatachalapathy. The festival also hopes to screen G.Aravindan’s celebrated Kanchana Seetha in a late-night viewing of the film.

The festival will be inaugurated on February 15, 2011 , by a showing of some of Adishakti’s work in progress on diverse interpretations of the epic. Nimmy Raphel’s Nidrayattam explores the condition of sleep and sleeplessness through the experience of Kumbhakarna and Lakshmana; The Ramayana Project by Pascal Sieger retells the epic through music as text; Vinay Kumar‘s The Tenth Head focuses on Ravana, while Arvind Rane’s Luv aur Kush touches on the anonymity of the story teller.

These are some of the events that have been included in this year’s Adishakti festival of the Ramayana . As always, the priority is to provide our spectators with a creative space and adequate time to form their own connections and thoughts across the different versions and interpretations of the epic. We invite you to join us on this reflective and creative introspection of the Ramayana to celebrate the plurality it so richly embodies.

Rustom Barucha                                                Veenapani Chawla
Festival Director                                                                Artistic Director and  Managing Trustee, Adishakti

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