In an era where terms like empowerment, equality and independence are finally seen surfacing, mythological stories now seem a bit naive. Giving a story from the Mahabharata about Aravan, the son of Arjuna and Ulupi, a modern twist, the play One Night Only by Akvarious Productions managed to alleviate the struggle.
Amey Mehta, playwright, director and artiste, says, “This play is about two worlds. On one side, we focus on the transgender festival that happens once every year in Koovagam, Tamil Nadu, and on the other we relate to Kalappali - a sacrificial ritual where one of the most valiant warriors (in this case - Aravan) must sacrifice his life to Goddess Kali in order to win the battle.”
He elaborates, “When I heard the story from Mahabharata where Aravan was destined to die and Krishna marries him in the form of Mohini before Aravan dies the next day. I wondered what would happen if Krishna as an individual and Mohini both fell in love with Aravan. This is the angle I was curious to explore.” One Night Only is a dance-based drama with various dance forms like Bharatnatyam, contemporary, Odissi, Karagattam, and the martial art form of Kalaripayattu. With the background score of Tamil fusion folk music and two songs in Tamil performed live, this ensemble of 12 exceptional artistes collaborated to produce a heart-warming performance.
Speaking about the challenges behind props and costumes, producer Akarsh Khurana says, “Since the play is from the Mahabharata, organising the appropriate props and costumes was a task. While a few of the props were created, the others were bought. The costumes were designed by Navneeth Patil, who gave a lot of thought to the materials and other aspects.” The USP of the play is its timeliness, he believes. “The fact that the story is about the Koovagam festival seemed very topical. We tried to find transgender theatre artistes but since this is a dance-based drama, we found it a bit difficult to find artistes who could dance. But we managed to get a few transgender people on board as consultants and took their advice on the details. Most of the artistes are also trained by them.”
One Night Only does a modern take on all the mythological characters by giving them local origins. Amey feared the worst about their attempt to make these characters seem more human as opposed to God-like. He says, “I was very nervous because these characters had all the human foibles and spoke using abusive language. I worried that this wouldn’t be accepted by the audience.”
But people will appreciate the efforts taken to make the characters relatable and the stage so inclusive. “Most of my artistes feared transgender people but after working closely with them, they built a sense of empathy. That was what I wanted. I don’t want people to feel sorry for the transgender community, but I want them to be perceived positively and celebrated. It is essential to change the primitive mindsets,” he speaks like the visionary that he is.
After its grand success in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, the play will be performed in Bengaluru on August 3 at Ranga Shankara in JP Nagar....