Pomp and show blurs Kalidasa’s original message

An adoption of Kalidasa’s famous play Malavikagnimitram, NSD’s Vidisha Ka Vidushak fails to live up to its hype

NH photo by Pramod Pushkarna
NH photo by Pramod Pushkarna

Pragati Saxena

It was a curious mixture, or let’s say fusion of Tamil theatre and Hindi dialogues, of a classic play and structure of a folk theatre, a street chhaap comedy and a poetic one, the result too was weird. It made you laugh, there was a good synchronisation of music, dance and dialogues, but something haunted as out of tune all through the evening, a jarring note in a well flowing symphony.

While watching the Hindi play Vidisha Ka Vidushak, performed by the second-year students of National School of Drama (directed by CR Jambe), brooding over what exactly was not really merging with the entire flow of the performance, gradually, I felt that I was not able to identify with it sitting in a very urban environment with a sophisticated audience. The structure and dialogues were ill at odds with the surroundings.

It was like watching a Govinda movie, or a folk play performed on a street of a small town. I have nothing against it. In fact, I have enjoyed some Govinda movies and many street plays with their crass comedy. But this was an adoption of a play, Malavikagnimitram, written by Kalidasa. I still have the feeling of having read it as a student: the feeling of being overwhelmed by the sheer romanticism and beauty of the story, the intrigues of politics woven with intricacies of love.

But Vidisha was different. It was filled with fun, roadside humour and loud music. But well, it was the Therukoothu version of Malavikagnimitram. It was supposed to be loud and flamboyant. It did succeed in that. The young actors looked enthusiastic and versatile, singing, dancing and delivering dialogues at the same time in a single breath. But beneath all that flamboyance and humour was a subtle message—that in love, even the most powerful starts behaving like a clown, the clown actually starts dictating the ruler, the ruled become the ruler and the woman always ends up sacrificing far more in a relationship and is, more often than not, subjugated. This message which showed itself in some fleeting dialogues was weighed down by the humour, the music and the singing.

The king, Agnimitra, was portrayed as nothing but a buffoon swooning over Malavika despite having two wives. And Malavika always ends up bending down and touching the king’s feet. The original play very subtly portrays the man-woman relationship, and the equation between the Vidushak, the King and his praja. The Thirukoothu version of it lacked that subtlety.

It was of course a colourful adaptation of Malavikagnimitram, full of fun and music. But sadly, it was just that.

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Published: 04 Jun 2017, 12:19 PM