Three debuts in Mumbai for every kind of theatre-goer
Bali: Directed by Nimmy Raphel; 16-17 November, Experimental Theatre, NCPA
Among the many poignant moments that the Ramayana evokes, there are those where the line between good and evil is so fine that it disappears. And the story of Bali is full of such moments, raising many questions on human behaviour, ethics, and ultimately death. As the tale goes, the monkey-king of Kishkindha met his death through a cunning ploy hatched by his step-brother Sugriva and Lord Ram.
Auroville-based theatre group Adishakti Laboratory for Theatre Arts & Research, chose Bali for their eponymous play that explores the different interpretations of notions of right and wrong. The dance-drama, directed by Nimmy Raphel of Adishakti, was first staged earlier this year in Chennai. “Choosing the episode of ‘Death of Bali’ was a conscious decision as I was inspired by the Ramayana Festival which was organized byAdishakti a few years ago. The play explores the different narratives of a few characters, both well-known like Rama and Ravana, and lesser known, from their actions and decisions, which culminates in the death of Bali," says Raphel.
Constellations: Directed by Bruce Guthrie, 22-25 November, Experimental Theatre, NCPA
Nick Payne’s Constellations opened to great reviews when it first premiered in 2012 at the Royal Court Theatre, London. The award-winning production has found a revival in the hands of British director Bruce Guthrie, who was in Mumbai earlier this year to scout for the cast of this two-hander play, and ultimately chose actors Mansi Multani and Jim Sarbh.
Constellations is a rare narrative where particle physics and parallel universes prove to be useful tools to unfold the relationship between a man and a woman. Is this a romance? Guthrie, in Mumbai for rehearsals, says, “Constellations follows the relationship of Roland (Sarbh) and Marianne (Multani). The play is constructed to depict the idea that there is a multiverse and all possible outcomes actually happen in parallel universes. Payne has taken a scientific theory and managed to create a compelling piece of drama."
Devdas: Directed by Saif Hyder Hasan; 16-25 November, Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, NCPA
Devdas, the 1917 novel by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, has been more frequently realized on screen rather than on stage. From a silent film based on it to regional adaptations, the classic romance has been a favourite of Indian cinema nearly every decade since it was first written, making Devdas a familiar name and a trope for tragic love. While there have been plays based on Chattopadhyay’s text, director Saif Hyder Hasan is pretty certain that none have been made at the scale and the grandeur that the story deserved. In Hasan’s directorial venture that has a double cast, the protagonist Devdas, his would-have-been-wife Paro and the courtesan Chandramukhi are accompanied by original melodies and dance. If it vaguely reminds us of the big budget but unwieldy 2002 film by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Hasan assures us, “While writing the script for the play, I didn’t go back to the films for reference. Our version takes us through the unsolved mysteries of what happened to Chandramukhi (Manjari Phadnis/Bhavna Pani) and Paro (Sukhada Khandekar/Aanchal Chauhan) after Devdas (Gaurav Chopra/Sunil Palwal). We have tried to create the magnificence of 19th century Calcutta on stage to give audiences an experience different from the films."