'Kaamaroopigal' is a gripping adaptation of Ramayana 

'Kaamaroopigal' is a gripping adaptation of Ramayana 

Produced by the theatre group Sanchaya, the Kannada play is a vibrant musical backed by solid performances, writes Vivek M V

Pratheeksha Sreenath is brilliant as Shurpanakha in 'Kaamaroopigal'.

Ramayana, the ancient Indian epic, continues to fascinate and intrigue people across the globe. Books, cinema, and theatre have retold the story from different perspectives. Sanchaya’s Kannada stage adaptation ‘Kaamaroopigal’, inspired by the Panchavati portion of the epic, is making waves. 

The 90-minute play, which oscillates between a musical and dance drama, clinched the top honours at the 42nd State-level Kannada Drama last week in Udupi, apart from bagging several other awards. It premiered at the Ranga Shankara Theatre Festival in October. 

‘Kaamaroopigal’ stays true to the festival’s theme of ‘Staying Alive’. The stories of Shurpanakha’s insult and the consequent abduction of Sita are well-known. But director Ganesh Mandarthi uses the power of storytelling through the folk form to infuse life into every scene of the play. 

The foot-tapping music — enhanced by the sound of drums, mrudangam, and chanda — complements the dynamic steps of the actors. The vocals, led by Ananya Suresh and Havish Sreenath, are perfect follow-ups of intense dialogues in Halegannada (old Kannada). The performers, especially the ones enacting the two avatars of Shurpanakha (Pratheeksha Sreenath and Vasantha Krishnamurthy) and Ravana (Sandeep Jain and Bharath D), exude a blast of energy. 

“Ramayana is a Mahakavya (epic poetry). People mistake it to be a novel. I am influenced by the beauty of Janapada Ramayana. The epic has to be staged through song and dance,” Ganesh tells Showtime

Ganesh rues that his drama doesn’t convey anything new to the audience. Even if it’s a fair observation, what ‘Kaamaroopigal’ does is to seize the big moments well. For instance, Shurpanakha’s transformation to impress Rama is a terrific surprise that brings the house down. 

From her unpleasant look (as chronicled in most of the versions), she turns into a party-goer, shaking a leg to a peppy number in a cocktail dress. The striking feature of this colourful passage is a group of men dancing in fluffy skirts, quite a common practice in western cultures. 

“We wanted to introduce a surprise factor and it worked,” explains Ganesh about offering a modern spin to Shurpanakha’s character. Her appearance was perhaps to suit the city’s flamboyant party culture of Bengaluru. “Yes, the venue matters. Once during a performance in Udupi, I showed Shurpanakha as the Daiva (spirit) in Buta Kola as it is relatable for the audience there,” he adds.

The lustful gaze of Shurpanakha and Ravana is quite apparent when they try to convince Rama and Sita respectively. But the ‘Kaama’ in the title is indicative of the desires of people in the play, says the director. “Kaamaroopigal are those who have the powers to transform themselves into different forms to get hold of what they desire,” he says.  

The vibrant costumes and sharp lighting enhance the richness of the production. The play produces enough joyful noises through cleverly placed satirical dialogues. It ends on a gripping note with the Jatayu Moksha. “Going forward, I want to explore the relevance of Ramayana in today’s world,” signs of Ganesh. Sanchaya will next present ‘Kaamaroopigal’ on January 16 at 3.30 and 6.30 pm at Ranga Shankara.

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