Born out of experience, this experimental Kannada play has the roles of its characters reversed. Akshayambara while using modern theatrical tools will also use the dance drama form of Yakshagana to tell their tale. Apart from the fact that a woman will be playing a man, and vice versa, this play has a strong message weaved into its scenes. The play details the experience that the playwright and director Sharanya Ramprakash went through during her time as student at the Yakshagana Kendra, Udupi. Production manager Sridhar Prasad says, “She started the journey by just wanting to learn the dance drama form. Having spent two years at the Kendra, she understood the politics and socio-economic background and cultural agency of Yakshagana. She understood how it is looked at in terms of female representation.” The theme of the play, Sridhar says questions various aspects of the way the art form is practiced.
He adds, “When a man is able to represent a woman, why isn’t the same stage available for women to play male roles. Are they even welcome in the first place? And are they free to practice it professionally? When this role reversal happens, what happens to the gender dynamics? The equation is what we will focus on in this show.” We have many professions and careers that are largely male dominated and its only in the recent times that females have found a place for themselves in these professions. “The acceptance of women in certain professions and the politics that comes with it is not only limited to Yakshagana. The question of acceptance gets overshadowed by ability, skill, discomfort and apprehension, he shares. Yakshagana follows a sub-plot from the main stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata. This show will follow the disrobing of Draupadi by the Kauravas. What’s unique about this play is that Sharanya will be playing one of Kauravas while Prasad Cherkady will be playing Draupadi. Sridhar adds, “This story is a very visual representation of oppression, politics and power dynamics that gets played out in Mahabharata. On stage there is gender reversal, therefore, a male actor is being oppressed by the female and in the green room, it’s the other way around. The play moves back and forth from the green room and the stage.” The troupe has travelled with this play not only to remote villages in Karnataka but also to international destinations like London and Singapore.
Sharanya Ramprakash is quite excited to bring this ancient art form to the stage here, “This is a show, where I am a woman who plays a male character. Yakshagana is a dance drama form that for over 800 years never had women playing male roles, and to do this is quite a delight.” Prasad Cherkady plays the character of a star performer at the Yakshagana troupe. Giving us an insight into his character, Prasad explains, “My character is the star of the troupe and added to this equation, a girl is hired by the troupe. Friction starts when he feels that it’s against tradition that a girl performs in the professional troupe. But he comes to his senses when he realises that she faces the same pain, and the problems he has faced, and therefore comes to accept her.”
— This play will be staged on January 27 at Ranga Shankara....