BENGALURU: What is Ramayana without Ravana, the king with 10 heads?
Is he an embodiment of evil, or is a victim of circumstances? Are there any good qualities in him? Is he a bad man only because he had kidnapped Sita and asked her to become his wife?
These questions invite varied answers.
‘Ravana...the untold story of the 11th head’ is a dance drama conceptualised, choreographed and is set to be performed by city-based Kuchipudi dancer Surya N Rao. Based on a theatre production that he had watched – ‘Ekadashanana’ by Shashiraj Kavoor and a Yakshagana talamaddale, ‘Ravana Atmasakshaatkara’ by Shreni Gopalakrishna Bhatt, Rao tries to find answers and more through this dance drama.
In this production to be showcased at ADA Rangamandira, JC Road, on June 29, Rao gives us a glimpse of Ravana, the prolific scholar, a veena maestro, a mighty ruler and an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. “The show begins with Ravana preparing to conduct a yagna for Rama who has come to Lanka to fight with him. I found this in one of the versions of Ramayana’, he says.
“The defining moments from his past flash before his eyes while he settles down to perform the rites for Rama’s victory, thus charting his own death. Finally, while he is waging the war, his 10 heads give him different options. One says he must surrender to the supreme being while the other taunts him for killing his kin, another shames him for being reduced from an emperor to this lowly state by a human, another urges him to wield weapons and win the war. An exasperated Ravana goes to his favourite God for salvation. Then his inner conscience, which becomes his 11th head, guides him. I was inspired by Ravana’s inner conscience as it justifies his decision to fight Rama.”
Rao has been guided by his guru Veena Murthy Vijay and dancers and theatre personalities Madhu Nataraj, Chandrashekar Navada, Jeevan Ram Sullia. “I was inspired to do this production based on the Kathas and innumerable upakathas in Ramayana. The Puranas say that Jaya, the door keeper of Vaikunta, chooses to take three births as Vishnu’s enemy and fights him to eventually get killed so that he can return to Him sooner. We used this story of Ravana and convey the message that he is one of them,” he said.
“Sanskrit, English, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Sinhalese have been utilised in this production, and Kuchipudi, Yakshagana, Bharatanatyam, and martial arts techniques of Thang tha and Chhau have been interwoven to present the war scenes,” Rao added.
The dance drama is a ticketed programme.
(The writer is a dance critic )