As ‘Oedipus’, ‘Oedipus’ indianised as ‘Niyati’, ‘Lysistrata’ (retitled ‘Ghazab Teri Ada’), ‘Bacchae’, ‘Agamemnon’… Greek myths are still with us. At Bharangam, NSD’s annual theatre festival that brings us the best of Indian theatre, as many as five of the plays are Greek classics, written over 2,000 years ago! From the first very known playwright in the world, Aeschylus, comes ‘Agamemnon’ in a sparse modern version from the United Kingdom. Sophocles’ masterpiece. Oedipus, the Greek hero who kills his father and marries his mother, saw two productions on the same day, while Aristophanes’ comedy ‘Lysistrata’ was seen in an Indian avatar, ‘Ghazab Teri Ada’.
‘Niyati’, Bhargava’s excellent translation and adaptation of ‘Oedipus’, is a very successful production. Much of its success lies in the very well thought-out transposition of the story into a feudal Rajput setting. Moved by the suffering of the people, Raja Indivar gets his brother Karsam Singh to visit Bhairav Devta for a cure (in the original this is the oracle of Delphi). It is revealed that a cursed soul is the main cause of this disaster. The country cannot be saved until the culprits are exiled. Indivar invites a soothsayer, Trikal Baba (Tiresas), who tells him that a person, who has killed his own father, married his own mother and is the brother of his own children, is the culprit; and the situation will continue unless he is punished. Despite his wife’s protest, Indivar takes a vow to find the culprit and save the country. As we all know, he is the perpetrator. And even as the Rani commits suicide, he blinds himself. A cathartic experience.
Antariksh Nagarwal in the main role performs effectively, particularly at the end when he comes crawling, blinded, alone down the palace steps. The chorus provides an adequate foil to him, and many of their lines are sung in Dhoondhari, one of the many dialects of Rajasthani. Stage design and lighting heighten the tragedy of this mythic tale, were brought by Natyakulam, Jaipur, under the direction of Ashok Banthia.
And then there is the ‘Bacchae’, Euripides’ formidable story of evil born out of pleasure and the celebration of the god Dionysus. This comes in a new production from Chorus Repertory Theatre, Imphal, and showcases their signature style: high aesthetics, local music, martial arts and dance, choral speech and stylised acting. Again a Greek myth transposed to India! ‘Lysistrata’ devolves around the comic theme of women staying away from cohabiting with their husbands to compel them to desist from war! A delightful look at gender politics, as relevant today as it was in the 3rd century BC! Directed by the head of NSD, Waman Kendre, and produced by the NSD repertory, this production is in a style reminiscent of the Marathi folk form of Tamasha, and uses music, movement and exuberant colour to tell its tale.
‘Agamemnon’ explores the return of the Greek hero to Greece after the 10-year-long battle with Troy. He is greeted by wife Clytemnestra who incites her lover to kill her husband in his bathtub, and even do away with his purported mistress, Cassandra the Trojan princess. Son and daughter turn against their mother as she grabs power for herself. A minimalistic production by a Greek company based in England. The four playwrights presented the 70 glorious years when classical Greek drama was at its height, and drew an audience of thousands.