An army of brothers, evil intentions and a game of dice became the reason for one of the bloodiest wars in the Indian mythology. The Mahabharata is a story which deals with varying degrees of human nature, be it envy, revenge, lust and wrath. Set in a patriarchal background, the story of Draupadi, the Kauravas and the Pandavas may be as relevant today as it was centuries ago when it was written.
As the epic goes, a humiliated and distraught Draupadi vows, “I will not tie my hair until I wash it with Dussasana’s blood”. The mighty Bhima also pledges to tear apart Dussasana’s chest, taste his blood and leave him brutally murdered.
Taking the plot of an epic tale and blurring the boundaries between two dance forms, Flamenco and Kathakali, Cesar Lorente Raton’s production ‘The Killing of Dussasana’ became the prime attraction at NCPA as part of the literature live festival recently. The performance was complemented by live music. The strong beats of the Madhalan and Chenda served as the pulse for the two dance forms.
“I saw the possibility of both art forms coming together because of their tapping and passionate way of staging themselves. Since Kathakali is a dance form dominated by men, it became essential to include a woman in the performance. By incorporating these elements I ensured that the essence of both the dance forms is not lost. Flamenco has a history of being interspersed with different dance forms because of its quality of adapting to different cultures. It has been fused with nearly every art form in the world”, says Raton.
In his view, “Kathakali and Flamenco are completely different art forms but they have something in common – raw power and passion mixed with divine grace”.
A Red Light to Violence Against Women is an initiative started by Raton to bring awareness about violence against women.Since the dance-drama is based on a violent tale, culminating it with a social message gives it more relevance. The underlying theme of the dance-drama was the various kinds of violence against women and how to deal with them.
Bettina Castano made an enchanting and vivacious Draupadi and managed to keep the audience spellbound with her gripping expressions and fast paced movements. She proved to be a versatile bailaoras using a baston(stick) while defending herself from Dussasana, covering herself with the manton(shawl) when he leaves her humiliated and also using palillos(castanets) during the sequence with Bheem.
Upon asking why Raton chose Flamenco over other dance forms for depicting Draupadi, he says, “Draupadi portrays herself as a strong woman with pride and passionate. Flamenco’s way of portraying women matches very well all these characteristics of the character.”
Bijulal Narayana was spectacular as Dussasana. His ghastly voice, larger than life costume and mukut coupled with heavy gory make-up gave him a diabolic look. His presence made the general air damp with terror.
Kalamandalam Bijukumar played Bhima who was to avenge Draupadi. Fighting, killing Dussasana and butchering his chest were skilfully depicted through the dance form of Kathakali.
Raton has been working with them since 2008.
Live music added the extra flavour of exuberance to the show. Ramanan Raman played the Madhalan while Sumesh Gopalan played the Chenda, both stood at the opposite ends of the stage.
Bright lights set fire to the stage. Red lights were used extensively to give the feel of terror and violence. Blue and green lights were used during the angry battle between Dussasana and Bhima.
The performance was not only limited to the stage, the actors took it a notch higher by enacting some of the scenes around the audience. The gigantic form of Dussasana emerged from the audience and nearly traveled till the top of every row with his high pitched shout. To have him stare right into your eyes is sure to make you trip from your seat. He managed to bring out the evil into the atmosphere, even though he died his mighty shouts reverberated in the audience’s ears. The battle between Dussasana and Bhima started from the opposite ends of the auditorium.
The battle between Dussasana and Bhima started from the opposite ends of the auditorium. Slowly pacing towards each other for the final battle of survival and death quickened our heart beats.
The performance ends with the union of Bhima and Draupadi. Bhima completing his promise and washes Draupadi’s hair in Dussasana’s blood.
To catch their next performance, visit their blog: http://cesarlorenteraton.wordpress.com/video/