Bali: The Sacrifice, may be one of Girish Karnad’s not-so-popular play, but the First Ray Theatre Group chose to make it semi-contemporary in their own idiom. Like most Karnad plays, this one too revolves around relationships. Betrayal, infidelity and relationships complicating life forms the crux of the play. The protagonists are an elephant mahout and a queen who fall in love.
Based on a 13th century Kannada epic, Yashodhara Charite, the play is about the conflict between Vedanta and Jainism. “We haven’t placed the play in any time frame. It could be based in any period,” says director Akhishek Saha, adding, “The idea was to bring in a language of our own and perform a play that’s not very popular. Presenting it in a semi-contemporary manner was exciting as well as challenging.” The actors comprise Anshuman Jha, Avantika Akerkar, Atul Mongia, Nisha Lalvani and Sumit Kaur.
Just for the records, the play was last directed by Nona Shepperd in 2002 and staged in London with Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah playing the main leads.
Jha, who stumbled upon the script and decided to mount the play, said, “None of us have seen the play. We’ve also made a conscious effort to not speak to the actors of the previous production because we didn’t want to be influenced in any way.”
Jha explains, “This is an emotionally explosive play. And each actor has explored the characters through his or her personal experiences and brought in his or her own approach.”
For Saha, picking up a Karnad play that hasn’t been performed before professionally as his directorial venture is of importance as a director, whereas for Jha, entertaining and keeping the audience engaged is of utmost importance as an actor. He says, “I have to be good if people are going to pay to watch me.” Well, then the audience can look forward to the return of Bali: The Sacrifice, by the First Ray Theatre Group.