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Dealing in Intricacies

‘Chalo ab naatak khelne ke liye taiyaar ho jaao!’

 

With ‘Hayavadan’, the club’s first production of the semester in MIT, Aaina delved into a complex plot which explores the intricacies inherent in relationships. Armed with talented albeit first time actors, classical dance forms, and live classical music, the play made for a commendable watch.

It started off with a devotional ‘Bharatnatyam’ rendition by the two ‘actors’, which despite being accompanied by brilliant live music rather lacked energy and clearly did not have the desired impact. ‘Actor1’ and ‘Actor2’ though indifferent dancers proved to be skilled actors and along with the equally capable ‘Bhagvat’ carried the story forward and managed to break the audience-stage barrier. Sankalp’s zealous acting kept the audience engaged and well-rehearsed timing commanded excitement at the right time. The plot started building up with the monologue of the titular character ‘Hayavadan’. His peculiar saga involved elements of Hindu mythology and was successful in engrossing the audience.

The plot then introduced ‘Devdatt’, a ‘Brahmin’, the dreamy poet and scholar and, ‘Kapil’, a brawny man of outdoors as best buddies. The parts were aptly played by the actors who made the stark contrast between their characters believable. The well-executed exchange between the two, both ensued hilarity and brought out the depth of their friendship. As ‘Kapil’ repeated after his friend the florid claims of love, the audience chortled. ‘Padmini’s’ character was deftly introduced as playful and a tease through the dialogue between her and Kapil. Chemistry between their characters was evident from the start.

The method of ‘yatra’ was quite well executed with the help of live music in depicting the trio’s journey to a fair. The plot then started to wade through the complexities of relationships and the character’s monologues were successful in making their inner feelings apparent. Padmini’s passion for Kapil, her husband Devdatt’s best friend became evident as she blatantly mentioned his broad shoulders, his sinewy arms and his rugged hands, further highlighting her lust. The scandalous nature of the plot, as it dug into the viscus of sexuality made for engaging drama.

'Hayavadan' at the Library Auditorium, PC: The Photography Club, Manipal

Hayavadan’ at the Library Auditorium, PC: The Photography Club, Manipal

The intensity of the moment as a dismayed Devdatt sacrificed his head at the Kali shrine was skillfully conveyed through well-coordinated light and sound effects. Ridhima’s performance as ‘Kali’ was perhaps the high of the evening. The ferocity of the delivery was goosebump-inducing and the candidness comical. When Padmini was given the ability to rejoin the men’s heads, she messed up and exchanged them. This caused the audience to ponder the complex psychological implications of the accident and wondered if she subconsciously knew what she was doing.

The exchange initially confused the audience and almost broke the flow, which could have been avoided by making the identities of the men more evident. As their love for Padmini took over, the brotherhood between the two seemed to have evaporated – this successfully highlighted the transient nature of human relationships and the role of passion in them. At this point, a critical question as to who Padmini’s husband was, was posed to the audience further breaking the Fourth Wall for good. Was it the one with Devdatt’s head or the one with Devdatt’s body? In the end, people were reminded of the Vikram-Betal lore as the trio settled at mind over body.

Narration was now done adroitly with the use of two of the couple’s son’s dolls controlled by Bhagvat. When Padmini coaxed her husband to work out because the body was losing its rugged identity, her lust was exposed. This made the audience wonder if mind had really won over body.

The dolls’ description of Padmini’s lascivious dreams involving Kapil’s body caused the audience to gasp and guffaw in equal parts. The change in Kapil’s demeanor and his initial shunning of Padmini was skillfully executed by the actor, Akhil. He then expressed his helplessness at his ardor, claiming that the body remembered her touch. This raised the intriguing question of whether the body too has memory.

The two even considered the possibility of the three of them living together, which is rather queer and in stark contrast to what might be considered appropriate – which are really the characteristics of the plot. Padmini’s claim that it was better that they had died respecting each other when the men die in a fatal duel, highlighted that the situation was unsolvable in the conventional sense. In the end, as Padmini took sati on the men’s funeral pyre, history seemed to repeat itself but there was no Kali to save them.

In the end, ‘Hayavadan’s problem was solved by, as Bhagvat referred to him, Padmini’s son. From the time of sacrifice at Kali’s altar and now, the story seemed to have come full circle and the plot had clearly unspooled.

The play raised profound questions with regard to the convolution in relationships and the concept of mind over body. The humor in the play was mild and the audience often chortled gently during the amusing bits, with rare knee-slappers. The actors proved their competency throughout the play. The live music did not falter and the lighting was apt. Save for a few glitches and fumbles here and there, the delivery was smooth and coordinated. The plot though dealt in highly complex matters, it kept the audience engaged and the narration style kept it involved. The general verdict was in favor and the play did give the audience a lot to ponder on. All things said and done, team Aaina did drama and MIT a solid with ‘Hayavadan’.