4 Corners - A Visit to Bangalore

BANGALORE REVISITED

My four days in Bangalore confirmed that Bangalore remains the most cultured city I know. A sponsored show of Vagina Monologues for the International Tourism Seminar proved yet again that there is no divide between emotions between class, caste, colour, creed. We have always been mobbed by men and women commending us for our ‘courage and bravery’ for bringing a piece like that to the public….not to mention the eulogies about the talent of the women participating.

So Bangalore began on a personal high, and continued in that euphoric state with the offerings I was to witness and experience at Ranga Shankara and Nrityagram.
The conversations with Arundhati Nag, the Founder and Creative Director proudly traced the five years of Ranga
Shankara, and the nearly two thousand performances they have had since. I only managed to see ZOPPERDOCKEL AND THE WOCK – which was the closing play of AHA (the Children’s International 10-day Theatre Festival). It left me amazed, dazed, impressed. And I am still reeling punch-drunk at the energy and reach of this one woman who started Ranga Shankara single-handedly.

AHA is the children’s wing of Ranga Shankara. It was started in 2006. And invites plays from several countries and conduct summer workshops for children…knowing that the future of all arts and culture lies is in their hands.
This year, the all-day festival introduced some 350 young people to traditional Indian forms and plays from abroad – Germany, Australia, Argentina. For the first time infants were brought to watch theatre! Sadly, I could only catch George Bydlinski’s ZAPPERDOCKEL, directed by Paul Schmidt and Wally Schmidt of Saltz und Pfeffer, Nuremburg, Germany. It aimed at six years and above….but it was so easy to forget that I was six decades removed from their target group!
Zappardockel is yellow, tiny, unsure and a crybaby. Wock is blue, fat and grumpy. And ZAPPAERDOCKEL AND THE WOCK in puppet form is the touching story of the beginning of a friendship between two creatures that couldn’t be more different from each other. The lighting, the quick-timing, the original use of colour and elements to express a thought, idea, emotion left one stunned and hugely impressed.
What was even more interesting was that this was a Ranga Shankara production in collaboration with the Goethe Institute of Max Mueller Bhavan with music composed by Kumaresh and lovable puppets made by Anurupa Roy of Kat-katha in Delhi.
Even though the festival has ended, ZAPPAERDOCKEL AND THE WOCK will continue to be staged by Ranga Shankara in different locations and cities in months to come….as Aru quotes: “The play is the thing”… and we shall continue to give wings to our collective dream!

A very typical sumptuous almost 15-course Kerala lunch celebrating Onam with Saraswati and Girish Karnad made the Ranga Shankara experience perfect. Kannadigas love to sample a variety of foods.

The same evening Girish Karnad and I were able to visit the Chowdiah Auditorium to see Prime Time Theatre Company’s BRIEF CANDLE directed by Lilette D
ubey. And a totally different almost North Indian cosmopolitan face of Bangalore opened up.
Mahesh Dattani’s play had the competent Prime Time repertory usuals Joy Sengupta, Suchitra Pillai, Amar Talwar amongst others making their entrances and exits in a cancer Avedna hospital – which as a diversion is staging a play written by an inmate who had recently left this world. My first observation was that the choice of this huge auditorium did not lend itself to the staging of this intimate content which also appeared a bit contrived. Concentration kept slagging. And the forced light-heartedness did not resurrect the evening. The actors having travelled from Mumbai lacked lustre, and even the staging of the ghost seemed repetitive.
My next stop was Nrityagram in Hasserghatta – the dance village founded by my dearest friend Protima Bedi who merged with the earth in 1998. I am sure she is watching and guiding from somewhere…watching her ‘disciples’ Surupa Sen and Bijayni Satpathy practicing VIBHAKTA – an excerpt from their original piece PRATIMA: RELECTION transported one to the heaven of the Gods.
Doing an excerpt from Ardhanareshwara Stotra attributed to Shri Adi Shankara, this piece has been choreographed by Surupa with music composed by Pandit Raghunath Panigrahi. The dancers Bijayni and Surupa are like the best of the best-synchronized Swiss watches ticking away to every nuance that the emotion demanded.
Perhaps a little note on PRATIMA explains this better.

In the union and the separation of the male and female principle lies the secret of all creation. It is believed that creation begins when, with the power of yoga, the ONE splits into two and becomes Ardhanareshwara (half-man half woman). In this form both halves live in perfect symphony – at once distinct and separate as well as harmonious and blended. Each acknowledges and celebrates the existence of the other.

This piece was specially commissioned for a performance in New York. And has been listed in the New Yorker of Sept. 12, 2008 by Joan Acocella as among the “ten best dance performances of 2008”. I would recommend this to all sponsors to provide a platform so that a larger number of us Indians can take pride in our culture and stand testimony to this exquisite treasure that is still blooming in Nritiyagram.

Too much of feminism has made us take sides. The message being imparted through Ardhanareshwara Stotra is one of universality of mankind -- respect and peaceful co existence of different cultures, genders, faiths, and beliefs….through the arts and through culture humanity can learn to be more tolerant and unite…that is the need of the hour!!!

- Dolly Thakore
Veteran theatre actress and critic