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A Tale of Three Lies – ADA’s ‘Rashomon’ at MILAP 2017

 

Date: 16/09/2017 | Sriya Koduru (The MIT Post)  

 

“It’s human to lie. Most of the time, we can’t even be honest with ourselves.”

~The Commoner (‘Rashomon’ by Akira Kurosawa)

One of several events under Manipal University’s literary and arts fest, MILAP, was ‘Rashomon’. The play was conducted by A.D.A (Absolute Dramatics Addiction from MIT) in association with Betaal. A spin-off of the Japanese classic directed by Akira Kurosawa, ‘Rashomon’ was beautifully sculpted to cater to the audience – with nuances of Indian traditions, relatable characters, and a powerful plot. It was directed by MIT alumnus Abhinav Grover – who is a former student of The Drama School, Mumbai, and has trained in the Udupi Yakshagana Kendra as well.

 

Courtesy: The Photography Club, Manipal

The play begins with heavy downpour in a mountain area. Three men are huddled under the shelter of an old gatehouse known as Rashomon. Among them is a priest (Hrisabh Kanti), a woodcutter (Srijan Agarwal), and a commoner (Aaryan Tandon). The scene: a soldier (Mithil Raj Goswami) was mysteriously found dead in the woods.

The priest and the woodcutter, who were witnesses to the events preceding his death, narrate the story to the third man. The woodcutter claims to have found the dead body of the soldier. At the trial, three witnesses are called to testify. The first one is a dangerous bandit, ‘Tajomaro’ (Praveen Rajj), who allegedly killed the soldier after raping his wife (Asmitha Asokan Reddy). However, he confesses that the soldier’s beautiful wife fell in love with him, and in a deadly duel to death, the soldier was killed by him. The court then produces the soldier’s wife herself as a witness. She claims that after Tajomaro raped her, her husband refused to take her back as a wife, and that he died in the hands of the deadly bandit. In a shocking turn of events, a third witness was called to testify: the spirit of the deceased soldier. He claims to have committed suicide after hearing about his wife’s affair with Tajomaro. This was particularly brilliant – the murky ambience, and the ‘bhoota’’s (Venumadhav Bhat) exorcism carried out by the exorcist (Medha Katiyar), all added to the gruesomeness of the scene.

 

Courtesy: The Photography Club, Manipal

The summary of all three witness testimonies was presented to the audience in a fantastic sequence with all the characters present. All three stories were in stark contrast to one another, and this only heightened the audience’s inherent curiosity. The final scene takes you back to Rashomon, where the woodcutter finally recounts his version of the events of the night. He changes his story and admits that he had seen more than he had initially let on. However, after he narrated his account of the murder, the audience was left awe-struck – unsure of which of the four stories to believe.

The ending of the play was abrupt and confounding, leaving everyone wanting more. The eerie music, dim lighting, and the spooky set added to the spine-chilling atmosphere. The production team did a splendid job of recreating this masterpiece of a play, and the actors carried it out with dexterity and grace.

 

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