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Chitrapata: When Soorpanakha takes revenge on Sita

After Ravana’s death, his sister seeks to get even with Rama. Kannada play Chitrapata recreates an unusual version of the Ramayana.

Written by Dipanita Nath |
Updated: March 24, 2015 9:53:05 am
talk, theatre, Chitrapata, Ramayana, Rama, Sita, Soorpanakha, Kannada play, Manjunath L Badiger A scene from the Chitrapata; (left) Manjunath L Badiger.

A demon princess is an unusual protagonist for an epic. In a Kannada folk tale, however, Soorpanakha emerges as an angry avenger who has lost her brother and plans to take on the divine might of Rama. Manjunath L Badiger was a child when he first heard this story, and it stayed with him. Five years ago, the story returned to him in the form a script by poet and playwright H S Venkatesha Murthy and, this time, Badiger, 33, decided to tackle this little-known version of the Ramayana on stage. Titled Chitrapata, the play fuses text with elements of Indian classical dances and art. The play has been nominated for the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards and will be staged at Kamani Auditorium on March 26.

“This version was different from that of Valmiki’s Ramyana,” said Badiger, over phone. The plot begins with Soorpanakha entering the palace of Rama and Sita in the disguise of a gypsy. Using her charms, she befriends Sita and persuades her to make a painting of Ravana. “Not the Ravana that Rama had known, but the one you saw,” she tells her. The latter paints Ravana’s likeness on canvas and, as he comes to life, the stage is set for another battle between Rama and Ravana — only, this time, the lines between good and evil have faded.
“I felt that the story was an apt receptacle for my comments on woman-power. In Chitrapata, Sita is also a powerful warrior who can defeat male protagonists without even touching them,” says Badiger. In one scene Sita tells Soorpanakha, “It is true that I emerged unscathed from the fire during agnipariksha but agni is also a man and nobody asked me about this.”

Though the 85-minute play is in Kannada, the protagonists emote largely through dance movements. Sita uses Odissi while the war scenes are choreographed in Yakshagana, a Kannada performing art that Badiger has trained in. “I decided to take the postures, gestures and movements of classical dances and bring it into the play to lend poetry to the narrative. Ravana also performs Yakshagana but he moves like a toy as he is a painting that has come alive,” says the director. The careful use of dance forms has won Chitrapata a nomination for Best Choreography.

The play will be staged at Kamani Auditorium on March 26. Tickets: Rs 100 and Rs 200 available at http://www.bookmyshow.com. Contact: 26805477

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First published on: 24-03-2015 at 12:00:28 am

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