July seems to be the month of children's theatre in Bangalore! If we began the month with the play "Gumma Banda Gumma " followed by the week-long Aha! Children's theatre festival at Ranga Shankara .....this weekend saw the riveting performance of Tulika's "Hanuman ki Ramayan" in Swaang-Nautanki style by Gillo theatre repertory at four different locations in Bangalore.
With our eight year old already having watched more plays this month than we adults watch in a year, we were warned by our folks at home that an overdose of theatre might just be a little too much for him! That said, however, we couldn't miss this troupe whose musical rendition of Asha Nehamaiah's book "Granny's Sari" we so enjoyed a couple of years ago ( God..time flies!). So Abhay went along with his daddy to watch the play at Suchitra film society at South Bangalore. The play was performed in the North Indian folk art form - Nautanki, where the story is performed through an eclectic mix of folk songs, dance and dialogues followed by an interactive session with the audience post the performance. Gillo demonstrated how a simple story can be transformed into an electrifying stage act with minimal props, purely on the strength of their performance , with each and every actor contributing in equal measure. Though set as a period drama, certain contemporary themes were also blended into the narrative making it even more entertaining! For instance, it was hilarious to watch Narada, touted as mythogy's most misunderstood character, comparing himself to today's "media-wale"! :-) So whether you love the story, or the Nautanki dance drama style.... Gillo's rendition of Hanuman's Ramayan is a must watch!
As a follow-up to the play, we read the book on which yesterday's performance is based... "Hanuman's Ramayan " by Devdutt Pattanaik and pictures by Nancy Raj. We all know about Valmiki's Ramayan but as the story goes... there appears to be another Ramayan supposedly a better one, according to Narada. Don't believe it.. Neither does Valmiki when Narada discloses the author's name to be Hanuman... the monkey.... a mere character in Valmiki's Ramayan. As Valmiki sets off to the foothills of Himalayas hoping to take a peek at the so called "better Ramayan" , he comes across an orchard full of banana trees with it's leaves scrawled on by what looked like fingernail marks. Upon close observation, the marks turned out to be " letters...words ....sentences" .... and it didn't take long for Valmiki to realise that he was indeed reading "Hanuman's Ramayan"! As Valmiki voraciously takes in the seven banana leaves containing the Ramayan...without missing a single word... he is so overcome with emotion that it falls upon only Lord's Ram's greatest devotee to save the day! Read on as this story only highlights how the mythological classic "Ramayan " lends itself to many different versions and mini-tales that is vibrantly brought out by the folk style illustrations. This is as much a story about Valmiki swallowing his pride as it is a tribute to Hanuman's devotion to Lord Rama. Indeed....a great way of getting our younger generation interested in mythology! Kudos to Gillo's talented performers for choosing stories from Indian children's publications and bringing them alive on stage!