At its annual theatre festival this year, Prithvi will embrace both the indigenous and the avant-garde under its vast theme Theatres of India.
Party to the latter is Theatre Roots and Wings, a relatively new theatre troupe from Kerala that has, in three years, chosen to push the boundaries of performance art.
The troupe will present in Mumbai Sahyande Makan — The Elephant Project, a labour of love that is based on the popular Malayalam poem Sahyande Makan written by celebrated poet Vyloppilly Sreedhara Menon in 1944.
A tusker is the protagonist of this narrative set in a temple festival in Kerala. The elephant is in shackles and slips in the course of the festivities into hallucinating about an unfettered life in the wild. Mistaking his stupor (of wildlife longing) as reality the elephant runs amok in the temple leading to a bloody stampede and eventually his death by the gun of a temple guard.
“We studied the poem in school, most people in Kerala have. It doesn’t lend itself to easy dramatisation. To have a human enact an elephant and its inner turmoil is rather challenging,” said playwright Sankar Venkateswaran.
To claim it as his own, the founder of Theatre Roots and Wings has rendered the script in Malyalam and Japanese, with English subtitles. To complete the intercultural connect, veteran Japanese theatre actress Micari essays the role of the elephant.
“More than the story, the play is about the experience of the body at the time of performance. Micari is very petite, only 149 cms tall, but her presence on stage is phenomenal. We also attempt with each staging to refine the play and to try recreate the Kerala ambience, venue permitting,” said Venkateswaran.
The play is fundamentally about man’s plundering relationship with nature.