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Ramayana revisited in true glory!

Remember those good old days when we woke up to traditional Sunday mornings watching ‘Ramayan’ and ‘Mahabharat’ on Doordarshan? It served almost a religious ritual that every Indian family enjoyed doing together even if it was a whole one hour episode dedicated to the vicious flow of two arrows finally clashing at the end of it and grandmothers giving the background commentary!

All said and done these were our first brushes with the eternal epics and rest assured will remain as the best ones too unless you get to watch something that comes close in terms of quality. Well, theatre buffs of Hyderabad were lucky enough to bump on to one such opportunity with ‘Sree Kalaniketan’ presenting Ramayanam as ‘Kodandapani’ (Suryavansh ka Dhanush) in a rare and neatly executed musical recently at Ravindra Bharathi.

The play was pillared by the presence of veteran minds and artistes – Directed by Prof D.S.N Murthy, written by N. Taraka Rama Rao, Music by Dr. N.J Bhikshu, Choreography by Dr. Aruna Bhikshu and the lead roles played by Venkat Govada, R. Shivakumar, VL Narsinga Rao and M.S Chowdary. It did not come as a surprise then that the play was handled at a psychologically elevating level. That Koushalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi were only ‘Laukika’ names and actually they had their counterparts in ‘Alaukika’ terms, that the inclusion of ‘Ahalya Shaapa Vimochana’ in the current presentation was a symbolic assertion of the fact that general good for all people will be done, the sequences having dancers forming a tabloid personifying the arrow or ‘Dhanush’, the elaborate play of evil in Dasaratha’s life shown through mime of ‘Mantara’ and her gamble were a few instances which stood proof of the high standards and in depth analytical approach in this theatrical presentation.

The story started with showcasing Rama as one of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu in a beautifully choreographed sequence and so were the numerous small dance numbers as interludes. The story though followed normal course highlighting Rama’s character and the play of the bow in every instance.

Being a new comer into the city and trying to learn the local language, this play in Telugu served a good palate with just the right use of language – neither too colloquial nor too chaste coupled with power packed performances, making it a learning experience.

The characterizations of Rama, Viswamitra and Dasaratha were apt to the requirement and so were the music, costumes, props and lighting – all tastefully done. Use of hugely built manned masks to show demons, demure lighting for the scenes of the forest, appropriately paced rhythms and selection of songs, and simple yet colorfully painted canvases of the forest et al called for special attention and an aesthetic touch.

Though a lengthy affair and held on weekdays, the play lured in a full house thus making this musical revisiting of the epic, a visual treat!