Today we had the chance to watch Naatak’s 100th Production – Ramayan. It was in Awadhi language. Awadhi or Oudhi the language of Awadh region in UP. Personally for me the language was not a barrier as the story was familiar and since I understand Hindi I could gel in.
Before I tell you about the play I have to say that I did not grow up listening to Ramayan and Mahabharat stories. My grasp was initially purely from the Amar Chitra Kadha when I started reading them. I don’t really remember being told these stories as a kid.
Also as my family was not religious we did not have the usual practice of reading Ramayan or Bhagavatam at home. So these stories were not part of my growing up.
Later on I got interested and read more about it. It was through my Malayalam teacher Abdul Wahid who over a year between classes also taught us Ramayan and its relevance for us in the Indian Sub Continent. My understanding of Ramayan is as a cultural epic that connects with people on varied levels in both religious or non religious ways. For me Ramayan is Cultural and Not Political to be precise.
I also learned over time that there are so many versions of Ramayan. What we saw today was taken from RamcharitManas which is an epic poem written by the 16th century poet Tulsidas.
Like any other Indian, the characters were etched in me as a cultural aspect and not anything else. While I was watching Ramayan in the Awadh Language, I was reminded of another version (may be less known to those in North), the Mappila Ramayan which was the Ramayana Story telling by the Mappilas, the Muslim Community in the Malabar area. This tells us how the storytelling had crossed boundaries in many places. But that is for another day, Today let us talk of the Naatak Play.
While as always the cast was splendid, I want to specially call out the dance group who transformed themselves to fighters, ocean, wind, trees and even Raavan’s Nine heads. Only nine as One head was his own, my friend Rajiv who masterfully played Raavan. Loved it… I especially liked the short humane side of Raavan when Meghnad dies. This is why I always say think in grey and not in binaries.
As Sujit Saraf the director says in the beginning that it is scripted and so nothing can change. Check the back story of why Raavan does all this. And Sujit, loved Hanuman.
When you say about the dancers you cannot miss the musicians. Music and Vocals are the main characters here. As usual Nachiketa Yakkundi you and your team were amazing.
I particularly loved the fact that they had kids play the roles of the varnarasena and even the Ravanasena… It added an extra cuteness to the scenes. If that roles were done by adults it could not have been presented so well.
I have not watched the epic Ram Leela lays that span multiple days, so I have no comparison scales to make here. I recommend you all to watch it. It is a treat. Though some people played multiple roles you will not feel that as an issue, just appreciation for those people who handled the multicast on their shoulders.
Now coming back to the oudh language. I was also reminded of the experience I had watching Danish Hussain’s Qissebaazi series where stories are told in local languages that I did not know and they used Hindi or English as Bridge languages. Here I did not need the bridge languages as the plot and characters were known.
Naatak also has a Naatak Mela every year where you get to see a few plays in different languages other than Hindi. Looking forward for Mela and of course the Next Naatak release which is KK. But that would be 101 and not 100. 100 is special and so go get your tickets now. Here is the link Naatak Link Forgot to tell you that there are subtitles as well, but I did not have to use it.