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Shraddha’s “Vithuran” by Mactrics

Remarkable blend of mime and speech

Kausalya Santhanam

With quicksilver movements, the artists transform themselves.

Youth and experience, modernity and tradition, mime and the epic come together in Shraddha’s “Vidhuran” which will be staged for four days, April 5-8, at the Narada Gana Sabha Hall. The story of this “unsung hero” from the Mahabharata is dealt with through monologue, mime and dance (conceptualised by Victor and T.R. Sravanth) with narration and dramatisation by ‘Vietnam Veedu’ Sundaram. With Sundaram’s effective words woven with the remarkable talent of a bunch of youth, it is an attempt that is impressive and new.

At the rehearsal on Wednesday, one could only get an idea of what was to be presented.
Filling a gap

Vidhura, the good and wise, is one of the most appealing characters in the Mahabharata. The half brother of the royal Pandu and Drithirashtra, he is the counsellor supreme to kings for his knowledge of statecraft is deep and comprehensive. Objecting when injustice is done and acting when needed on the side of truth, he is the one with whom Krishna chooses to stay when he comes as an emissary to Duryodhana before the war. But this son of Vyasa is a figure who is generally not centre stage. “Vidhuran,” directed brilliantly by Vivek Swaminathan of Mactrics, seeks to fill this gap.

‘Mactrics’ was formed by a group of young artists under the guidance of the late Mithran Devanesan. Headed by Victor and Sravanth, it comprises 50 young people trained in mime, 30 of whom are on stage in this play. When ‘Vietnam Veedu’ Sundaram, famed for his mastery over words in films that have become legends, saw them perform recently in English, he decided to give form to their idea and present it in Tamil by taking charge of narration and dramatisation. And also connect with Generation Next.

The heroes of this “Vidhuran” directed ably by Vivek Swaminatan are both Youth and Age. Through the character of the sutradhar played with verve by T.R. Sravanth, Sundaram weaves a narration that has punch and is full of contemporary use of language though the reference to Krishna in irreverent terms jarred.

Sundaram places the sutradhar right in the heart of the action, and by so doing places us the audience right in the centre too. And we are swept along the current of the machinations of Duryodhana, his wicked uncle and allies as he lays a trap for the Pandavas in the Palace of Lac.

While the dancers in the beginning bring in the mood of menace (choreography by Manasvani K. Ramachandran), the mime artists rush in like young dynamos of energy to vitalise the scenes. With their quicksilver movements and kaleidoscopic formations, they take us along a tide of action as they transform into storm-tossed boats, palatial rooms, narrow tunnels, galloping horses and surging waterfalls while some of their friends with their venal/leering/trapped expressions turn villains, henchmen or heroes. Music by Anil is an evocative complement to the actions while lights are Charles Baby and Kalai Ravi. The Palace of Lac turns into a House of creative expression in the hands of these young artists.

But Vidhuran remains a shadowy figure, he is not foregrounded. Occasional references to Vidura Neethi and Yavana Bhasha do not make him a three-dimensional figure. He reacts to all the rescue attempts which he sets in motion with the same gestures and bent head. The lac house with its labyrinthine mysteries and menace emerges as the real hero of the play.

Clarity too is a casualty in a few patches of the performance. And though the limp and the contortion of the face are enacted well, friend and foe alike sport equally malevolent expressions making it difficult to sort them out. Above all, repetition is a major flaw telling on the viewer’s patience and the overall impact. Also avoidable is the direct appeal to the audience at the end regarding the theatre.

A review for a rehearsal without costume and make up especially for a mime performance cannot be an accurate assessment of the ‘real.’ The magic of theatre on the day of performance is more than the sum of its parts. “Vidhuran” promises to be a piece of theatre that will make an impact. It introduces much needed youthful talent into mainstream Tamil theatre and peps it up. Shraddha certainly seems to be taking seriously its promise of bringing different fare to mainstream Tamil theatre.

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