An absolutely brilliant performance by Vivek Vijayakumaran as Bhima! The play explored the complex character of Bhima from Mahabharata through the medium of Kutiattam (the more than 2000 year old classical theatre form of Kerala recognized by UNESCO as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”). The play has incorporated in it ideas inspired from MT Vasudevan Nair’s ‘Randam Oozham’ (2nd In Line) and Ashok Malhotra’s ‘Child Man’.
In an attempt to get behind the mind and actions of Bhima, the play looks at how the passion, desires and vengefulness that Bhima carried within himself served the Pandava cause. It also explores the glimpses of weakness within the mightiest Pandava prince and presents it as an inevitable human vulnerability that almost anyone possesses in this world. The limits placed upon Bhima’s desires and individuality (liberty and choices) in many instances throughout his life owing to his dutiful obedience to his elder brother and mother are also presented brilliantly.
The presentation of the play is structured in such a way that now and then the narrative shifts from Bhima’s story to how a character like him will be judged by an urban audience or reader who is introduced to his actions and life in the 21st century. The casual unsympathetic judgement that is likely to come from such an audience is criticised in a humorous way and they are reminded that “it is easy to have a hero, but difficult to be one”.
Kudos to Vivek who conceived this project and it is remarkable that he experimented with an ancient art form like Kutiattam in an innovative manner to make it accessible and adapted to an urban setting. Sachin Gurjale who composed the music and co-performed the play deserve equal appreciation for the wonderful harmony that he brought into the performance. This is the first play directed by Anitha Santhanam that I’m watching and I absolutely loved it. Look forward to attending many more such brilliant works!