Acts of power
Marathi play ‘Avyahat’ directed by Rohan Ravindra Naik, is an adaption of the English novel ‘A Spoke in The Wheel’ by Amita Kanekar. It explores the relationship between history, religion, and the state. NT BUZZ finds more
VENITA GOMES | NT BUZZ
Goa-based Hauns Sangeet Natya Mandal’s latest Marathi play ‘Avyahat’ is making waves at various theatre festivals. It was recently declared the Best Play at the Maharashtra State Theatre Competition, out of 39 troupes. It also won second place at Kala Academy’s Marathi Theatre Competition, and several other prizes.
‘Avyahaat’ basically means never ending or something that never rests. The play talks about the never ending cycle of violence and power that the human civilisations are subjected to.
The play is set around the third century BC in the aftermath of the Kalinga War. It speaks about how after the war, Ashoka, tried to gradually increase his influence on the Sangha – the Buddhist monastic order, and how Upali, a monk, was commissioned to write a biography on Gautam Buddha.
“The story follows the journey of Upali, who is trying to negotiate the multitude of changes that have been happening around him after Samrat Ashok, the emperor of Magadha, surrenders war and accepts Buddha dharma,” explains director, Rohan Ravindra Naik.
In the book, Upali portrays Gautam Buddha in a very objective, non mystified manner, which is not acceptable to Ashoka and the Sanghas. Naik connects this scenario to what is happening today. He says that though it is a historical play, its relevance can be found strongly in any period and civilisation. “The play raises questions about a lot of things that are happening around us and also, within us. There are conflicts that erupt between the state and its subjects. There are times when absolute concentration of power through religious sanction, poses a threat to the freedom of people. It even converses on various issues of caste discrimination, insurgency and exploitation of the oppressed by the state to sustain power,” says Rohan.
The play also talks about how Upali forms a bond with Bhima – a war-prisoner of Kalinga and a leader of the Bhurya community. They share thoughts on the trauma of the violence at Kalinga and their dislike towards Ashoka.
The playwright, Kaustubh Somnath Naik explains what drew him to Amita’s novel and how difficult it was for him to script the story. “There are minute historical details added into the fictional narrative in the book. It carefully constructs story arc that takes the reader back and forth in time. It was difficult to adapt the story into a two-act play as the novel itself had four narratives running simultaneously into it and therefore it had to carefully weave a narrative that could best fit the stage,” he adds.
Rohan Naik who won the Best Director at the competition in Maharashtra, speaks of the challenges he as a director had to face. “The most challenging thing was to keep the audience engaged without taking their attention away from the core philosophy. We had less time and at the same time we had to do scripts revisions, improvisations, and much more,” says Rohan.
Assistant professor of performing arts, Keatan Jadhav who played the role of ‘Upali’ in the play and also won a silver medal for Best Actor at the said competition admits that he was scared at first to do a historical play. “The language was quite different and was very difficult. I spend most of my Diwali break reading, understanding, and discussing my character with my team,” he shares.
Rohan was happy to be part of the Hauns Sangeet Natya Mandal team as they put in their best effort when it came to story, acting, design, set and much more.
“The team was quite helpful and put in a lot of research when it came to the story, the character, the acting and more. Personally, I feel blessed and really fortunate to have been given this opportunity to direct such an insightful script and to be working with our incredibly talented and driven team of Hauns Sangeet Natya Mandal,” adds Rohan.
Upali: Keatan Jadhav
Samrat Ashok: Bipin Mangeshkar
Thera Mogalan: Govind Bagkar
Bhima: Satish Gaonkar
Thera Harsha: Mandar Jog
Anand: Santosh Naik
Their Vrinda: Prajakta Kavalekar
Thera Jeevan: Nitesh Naik
Lokesh: Atmaram Dhargalkar
Radhagupta: Jitendra Parker
Dharmakirti: Varad Naik
Villagers: Rohan Bandekar, Abhishek Dukhande, Navjyot Naik Gaonkar, Agraj Desai, Yogendra Kuncolieker, Snehali Jog, Vijayadurga Bandodkar and Nehal Parker
Set: Kiran Naik
Music: Rohan Naik
Make-up: Pradeep Govekar
Costumes: Prajakta Kavlekar
Lights: Gurudatt Desai/Partha S
Production Manager: Mandar Jog
Dramaturgy: Kaustubh Somnath Naik
Stage Hands: Babay Naik, Sudesh Naik, Nehal Parker
March 23, 7 p.m. at Rajiv Gandhi Kala Mandir, Ponda.
March 24, 7 p.m. at Gomant Vidya Niketan, Margao
March 28, 7 p.m. at Ravindra Bhavan, Curchorem.