The tenth head of Raavana is often the marginalised head of the character. And, that is what makes it exciting and offers immense scope for Adishakti, a Puducherry-based theatre group that presented its play The Tenth Head in Chennai recently as part of Purush Festival.
Scripted and performed by Vinay Kumar K J and directed by Veenapani Chawla, The Tenth Head is an extensive research on the interpretation of the character, Raavana, who has both been condemned and worshipped.
Vinay says, “The subject of Ramayana wasn’t favourable to me. But, the interesting part was the historical relevance of every painting of Raavana that has been made by artists.” Veenapani, who moved to Puducherry 20 years ago and started Adishakti, says that that focus was not much on narrative.
“It was exciting for us to see what was happening around the narrative. Ravana is valourised in the play. He is less chauvinistic about war, women and politics,” she adds.
Veenapani says that while Adishakti’s productions have extensively dwelt on the Mahabharata, they wanted to work on Ramayana to come up with something that wasn’t religious.
With an aim to explore traditional theatre and interpreting it with their aesthetics and research, Veenapani says that contemporary theatre cannot upstage their traditional counterparts.
“Traditional performers have enormous relevance. The knowledge is vast. There are people who do realism theatre like in the West and there is the traditional Parsi theatre. We have to find ways in which we don’t lose both worlds,” she says.
He adds that contemporary theatre in India may be progressing fast, but compared to the West, it is still far behind.