The New Performance programme emphasises the need to strengthen the contemporary performing artists’ emotional and artistic associations with local performance forms. This grant would enable Suresh Acharya, a Bikaner based theatre director and actor, to work with the rammat artists of his region for the purpose of evolving a performance script based on Rashmirathi, a Hindi poem, leading to a theatrical production.
The critically acclaimed and the visually arresting poem, Rashmirathi (The Sun’s Charioteer), written by the eminent Hindi poet Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar’ (1908-1974) is a contemporary reflection on the Mahabharat character, Kama. In simple and effective language, the poem narrates Kama’s ties to the Kauravas and the complexity of his relationship with his half-brothers, the Pandavas. Suresh’s interest lies in the text’s contemporisation of Kama as a figure who represents those ‘suppressed and sidelined by the mainstream’ in current times. It is the otherness of Kama that attracts Suresh to Rashmirathi. He says, “At a personal level, I, being a Mahabrahman (Brahmans supervising funeral rituals), have always been outside the mainstream Brahmans. In this context, I am attracted to Kama’s character that was outside mainstream though he was one of the Pandavas." The proposed work, therefore, will not just tell the story of Kama from the Mahabharat but explore the idea of Kama as the other who exists even today.
Suresh and his group grew up watching the rammats. The folk form of rammat, meaning ramna (to play) in Rajasthani, is very popular in Rajasthan. It is not surprising that Suresh has decided to reconnect with the enormously flexible form of rammat, which is very close to his heart and context, in order to explore Rashmirathi. Further, as Suresh observes, a series of primary readings of Rashmirathi alongwith the rammat artists has indicated that Rashmirathi is tuned to the rhythm of the rammat.
The project comprises different interconnected stages. In the first stage, Suresh and his group of theatre artists will study different styles and forms of rammat performances. In the second stage, in the light of their study of the rammat, they will undertake an in-depth analysis of Kama’s character as narrated through the seven sargs (sections) of Rashmirathi and evolve a tentative, scene-wise structure that will inform the group’s workshops with the rammat artists. The third stage will constitute one of the most significant aspects of the work process, wherein the theatre artists will workshop - with the rammat performers under the guidance of the senior rammat singer, Pandit Narayan Dasji Ranga. The actors will learn to recite the Rashmirathi lines in the rammat style supported by the harmonium, nagada and chamchama from Panditji and his artists. Also, as Suresh notes, “Panditji sees the story of Karna through the singing-style, use of words, rhythm and musical elements. We see it with scenes and visuals." It will be challenging for Suresh and his actors to respect differences while finding a meeting point between the poem and the rammat style to create a new form of performance.
Suresh Acharya will draft the Rashmirathi performance script, which will be presented as a vachik abhinaya performance for a small audience in Bikaner by the end of May 2011. This performance will feature orchestration of the dramatised speech of the actors and chorus, recitation of the poem in the rammat style and musical compositions created with nagada and chamchama.
This description is part of the institutional records created by IFA at the onset of the grant. The project may have changed in due course as reflected in the deliverables from the Grantee.
Grant No : 2010-0-022
Grantee Name : Suresh Acharya
Programme : New Performance
Grant Status : Completed
Start Date : 25-03-2011
End Date : 25-05-2011
Duration : Two months
Grant Amount : 1,50,000
Geographical Area of Work : Rajasthan
Disciplinary Field of Work : Theatre
Language : Hindi