BENGALURU: German director Felix Mathias Ott finds that unlike in the West, Gods and warriors from myths exist in the midst of contemporary day-to-day life in the East. His play Ramanaya, attempts to explore the Indian epic and find out if there is a difference between myth and reality.
Felix says it is not a reproduction or an adaptation of the epic. “We use the Ramayana as a playground and enter a world that is huge and sacred, and with a playful approach, we find new ways of reading the story, and search for a platform to find new interpretations and new questions,” he says adding, “And out of that openness, perhaps even some answers, but our work is not to provide answers but to propose questions and provoke thought. That’s what makes a story alive and contemporary.”
The performance explores the epic through a sketched model, made of material recycled from junk and debris. That landscape, a kind of mind map, constructed through different media such as film, music, dance, lights and stage design, will be used as a place where several scenarios unfold in front of the spectators. “The spectator is invited to join the performers, discover this world with them and perhaps even find their own answers to the questions they are confronted with,” he says.
He has collaborated with his partner in art, video-artist Benjamin Brix, sound designer Nikhil Nagaraj, production manager and lighting designer Bharavi and two performers Puja Sarup and Vinod Ravindran. Felix says that they started work on this project four years ago.
“It has been an ongoing conversation between me and Sandbox Collective. In 2015, I travelled to India for a month and spent time with various artists, we even created a short piece based on the story of Shakuntala with three Bengaluru-based actors. In December 2017, both my performers Vinod Ravindran and Puja Sarup came to Berlin for a two-week residency, and that is when we really came together to figure out what to do,” he says.
Felix has been in India from January 2, at rehearsals. “My research has also involved hearing these fascinating stories from people, in order to understand the world of Indian mythology, which is very ‘alive’ and ‘present’ in your daily life. I see it all around me, in temples, in rituals, and in everyday life,” he adds.
The duration of the show is about 90 minutes. Felix says the greatest challenge was to work with a an epic that old, and one which has been adapted many times by many people. To find a connection to it, especially because he comes from a different cultural background, was challenging. “Unlike most Indians, I did not grow up hearing about Ramayana, but I found parallels to other stories and fables from my own culture. In the end, they all speak of the same thing. The challenge is to find a path to create our own truth and yet be free enough to be able to look at it with a new perspective,” he says.