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A Murder in the Mountains: Rashomon by ADA

But is there anyone who’s really good? Maybe goodness is just make-believe.“
– Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950)

ADA’s Yakshagana version of Akira Kurosawa’s classic film ‘Rashomon’was a perfect representation of the moral ambiguity of human nature. An imposing set, which had a large Rakshasa or a demon staring down, greeted the audience as they took their seats in the scarcely lit TMA Pai Park amphitheater. Director Abhinav Grover’s take on the classic story revolved around a conversation between a priest, a woodcutter, and a commoner in a temple, as they discuss a murder that had taken place in the mountains.

The murder in question, involved an infamous dacoit, a soldier, and his wife. The dacoit was smitten by the soldier’s wife, whom he tried to seduce. The soldier was then murdered and the rest of the account was given in court by the dacoit, the soldier’s wife, and the soldier himself (who was summoned as a ghost). All three of these accounts were mutually contradicting; the boastful bandit claiming he had won over the soldier’s wife and defeated the soldier in a fight, the scared wife claimed that her husband was scorned after the dacoit violated her, and the prideful soldier, claimed he committed suicide when his wife attempted to leave with the dacoit. The accounts were presented one after another and kept the audience compelled throughout. This was followed by a quick summary of all the three accounts in a fantastic sequence involving all the characters.

As the audience pondered over each character’s version of what happened, the woodcutter revealed that all three accounts were lies and that he had witnessed the events himself.  The play consisted of numerous song and dance sequences. The one that stood out was when the soldier’s spirit was summoned through a dance that was shocking and almost terrifying for those in attendance – complete with demonic makeup, red lighting, and loud music. Elements of Yakshagana and Indian tradition were seamlessly integrated into the play, which remained loyal to Kurosawa’s film. The dim lighting added to the ambiance and fueled the suspense, and the music resonated with the tone of the story. Much like the priest in the play, the audience were shocked at the character flaws of all who were involved in the murder and were left questioning their own morals. In a world founded on agreements and disagreements, the story was a brilliant reminder that the definitions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are not absolute.