Redifining Shakuntala - a Review

(c) Puja Goyal

With the story of Shakuntala as foundation and using contemporary metaphors, Little Jasmine designed live theatre for the Bangalore audience at Ranga Shankara from 17th - 19th August. The performance was a result of an artistic combination of film, text, live music and martial arts by Kirtana Kumar, Konarak Reddy and Anmol Mothi.

Shakuntala is the story of Dushyantha, a hunter- king who falls in love with a girl in the forest- Shakuntala. It is the story if a king who forgot his love. The play expressed an underlying theme of how desensitized we have become towards humanity. It was an ardent appeal towards the audience to remember what they had forgotten. The films on screen flashed images of Kirtana and Anmol as they spoke. Kirtana described with zest, memories of her grandmother's house; while Anmol denied remembering anything from his past. Memories, happenings and tragedies are a part of our past. They give us identity and character.

To remember is to not live in denial. Shakuntala faces abandonment by her parents as a newborn, grows up in isolation, and is taken care of by the forest. She grows up to be a beautiful woman, who later falls in love with Dushyantha and weds him. Dushyantha soon forgets her and moves on while Shakuntala continues to play the ideal wife who waits and waits… and waits for her husband to return. She confronts him after twelve years of waiting and fights for her newborn child which was a result of a love that they shared.

What seems to have been a serious flaw in the script is that no one seemed to remember that newborns grow up in twelve years to be young boys. Kirtana was at her best, she was powerful yet subtle with the message she wanted to convey. Anmol must have really worked hard to choreograph martial arts for the stage. The fight sequences and dances were well- rehearsed and choreographed. The music composed by Konarak Reddy was apt. He combined contemporary rock with classical tunes to suit the atmosphere. There was never a dull moment on stage.

There were also a few changes in choreography from her previous performance in December which could have been a result of ensuring a more actor friendly environment instead of providing a ground for fatalities.

Barring for a few unavoidable technical snarls, the play was a looker. Most plays with a message tend to become boring and redundant, but Shakuntala redefined the way a performance is staged with an underlining theme of a social message. Shakuntala was first performed in October 2006 at the Oxford House, London and premiered in India at RangaShankara in December 2006.