Some of the hustle-bustle around Ganesh Chaturthi revolves around artisans trying to derive inspiration to craft the elephant-headed God. As the celebrations die down, so does the idol — in water, the idea silenced for another year to come. This cycle of creation, celebration, destruction and return is the essence of late Veenapani Chawla’s celebrated play, Ganapati. After holding audiences captive for 17 years and with performances to packed houses at House of World Cultures in Berlin, at Mousonturm in Frankfurt and Hamburg’s Kampnagel recently, Adishakti’s play will now take center stage at Ranga Shankara in Bengaluru on February 27.
With a cast that includes Vinay Kumar, Arvind Rane, Pascal Sieger, Nimmy Raphel, Anoop Davis and Apoorva Arthur, the performance uses rhythm as the central motif in telling the story of Ganapati. “The play uses multiple versions of Ganapati stories that talk about hybridity, inclusivity and accommodation, allowing the difference of opinion as the core narrative. At large, the play deals with the Indian notion of creation, celebration, distraction and return,” explains Vinay Kumar, artistic director of Adishakti. According to the troupe, the performance emerged from a grant made by the India Foundation for the Arts to Adishakti on the topic Rhythm as a text in Koodiyattam and Contemporary Theatre. The production thus blurs lines between theatre, dance and music and communicates its concerns through these rhythms. Since the use of text in the play is limited and audiences are used to having a story told to them through words, “There is a lot of confusion about what kind of play this is and whether it is actually a play or a music concert,” says Vinay. “But this only happens when you try to figure out what the show is about before hand. Come with an open mind,” he adds.
The play does not have a linear narrative either. The fables, myths and traditions associated with Ganapati are produced as metaphors as each episode unfolds. Did you know that one of the many stories revolving around Ganapati’s origin has to do with how Siva and Parvati put on elephant forms to please themselves as elephants? Out of this union was born their elephant headed son, Ganesha. And there’s more where that came from. Catch this show whose retelling of the myth will make you interpret creation and creativity at various levels.