Most of us are aware that ‘Great power comes with great responsibility,’ attributed to individuals who possess some form of hold or influence over others.
Whether used responsibly or corruptly, is what separates those individuals as superheroes or supervillains.
Having the power to re-enact a legendary story to the audience too takes great responsibility, one of which was ‘Ramayan: The Legend Relived,’ a drama staged from Friday, September 30 to Sunday, October 2 at Bruce Ritchie Performing Arts Centre in West Auckland.
The Story again
The story begins with the birth of Prince Rama (played by Vishnoo Mokkapati) and moves on to his marriage to Princess Sita (Parvathy Balan), their exile from Ayodhya Kingdom as per the orders of Queen Kaikeyi (Raagini Vijaykumar), the kidnapping of Sita by King Ravana (Rahul Chopra), and her rescue by Rama with the help of his half-brother Prince Lakshman (Vaidik Raj) and the Monkey God Lord Hanuman (Daivik Raj).
Rama, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman all return to the Kingdom of Ayodhya triumphant and are welcomed by a joyous celebration.
Having read, witnessed and participated in numerous versions of Ramayan, I wondered what would be different this time.
This ‘Ramayan’ surprised me in many ways.
Ramayan with a difference
Presented by Chinmaya Mission New Zealand and Relianz Travel, ‘Ramayan: The Legend Relieved’ was organised and staged by youngsters of CHYK.
The all-English narration and dialogues, which is itself unique for classical Indian drama, made it possible for people coming from varied backgrounds and ethnicities, to appreciate one of India’s most celebrated epics and absorb some of the humanitarian values championed by Rama and heroine, Sita.
Those of us who grew up listening to Lord Rama’s story in their native Indian languages, found this a welcome change and well-suited for a multicultural country such as New Zealand.
Although CHYK has organised other fundraising events in the past, ranging from stage productions, Garba and quiz nights, this year’s event was conducted on a much larger scale.
The 150-minute production featured a cast and crew of over 60 local youth, who showcased an interesting display of ‘Abhinaya’ or acting, interlaced with modern dialogue and contemporary dance to present the epic.
The ease in understanding the dialogues between the characters was noteworthy, as the subtlety of expressions were brought out without the need of complicated vocabulary, thus attracting the young and impressing the elderly.
Eye-catching costumes, attention to detail in stage settings, use of props, impressive dance sequences by Indiance that also represented the characters’ state of mind, and powerful background scores all point to signs of Ramayan not being time-bound but rather being ‘relieved’ time and again.
The drama had quite a few scenes that created lasting impressions in my mind, some of which made me ponder on whether it was clever direction or eye trickery. One such was the chamber scene of Queen Kaikeyi when she sees herself into the “mirror,” but in fact it was the audience she was looking at, making it appear as though we were ‘reflecting’ whatever she perceived to us.
Another memorable moment was the war scene towards the end, when Rama and Ravan, finally face each other.
The fight between the two superpowers was in steady, constant motion while the battle between their ‘armies’ were considerably ‘slowed down,’ as though “time stood still” around the hero and the villain.
More importantly, I felt everyone involved in the production was never out of character. Whether it was Kaikeyi throwing her jewellery to the floor in response to her anger, Ravan pushing others or shoving props due to his arrogance, or Shabari (Mrinal Murali) nibbling real grapes to show her true devotion to Lord Rama, no actor shied from being fully in character.
It was thus pleasing to witness an intense drama that made away without symbolic expressions or movements.
Other notable characters included Kaushik Balan as King Dasharath (Rama’s father) and Eena Bajaj as Queen Mandodari (Ravan’s wife.)
We look forward to Chinmaya Yuva Kendra’s next mega production in the not-too-distant a future.