Indian myth meets its Japanese twin

  • Nihit Bhave, Hindustan Times, Mumbai news
  • Updated: Feb 16, 2015 00:44 IST

Everyone knows the famous mythological story about the Hindu deity Krishna conquering the eight-headed snake Kaalia by fighting it underwater. A similar story, featuring an equally dangerous monster and an equally heroic saviour, exists in Japan.

As part of the Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, theatre artist Anita Salim of The Phoenix Players Company put on an outstanding performance, narrating the tale of the Japanese Krishna, at the National Gallery of Modern Art on Saturday evening. The performance was organised as part of the Zindagi Theatre Festival.

“The younger generation is losing interest in mythology,” she said. “All our stories are being converted into video games, and the same is happening in Japan. So I was glad that so many adults as well as kids listened to this tale with rapt attention.”

Titled Orochi and Kaalia, Salim’s one-act performance told two stories simultaneously — that of the eight-headed dragon named Orochi who was slain by Japanese thunder god Susanoo, and a retelling of the Krishna-Kaalia story. Salim built up both narratives and flawlessly steered from one story to the other and back, connecting them in their similar moral: the coexistence of evil and good.

The children were particularly taken by the dramatic delivery. “I loved how she danced as the dragon in the end,” said 10-year-old Ameya Gokhale. “And the story of how Susanoo found a sword in the dragon’s tail was so interesting.”
A storytelling session was a good fit for the festival, Salim said. “Nobody wants to pay for theatre today. Everyone thinks it’s too expensive and time-consuming. But with a fest like this, when it’s brought to children for free, they lap it up.”

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