The play Margazhi, produced by Theatre Nisha, and directed by V. Balakrishnan, traces the life of a Bharatanatyam dancer and gives audiences a glimpse of exploitative culture that dancers are forced to work in.

Through Vaidehi, an accomplished dancer, Balakrishnan, 48, explores the murky waters that dampen the art form. “Bharatanatyam is a divine art form, but dancers have to sometimes make ungodly decisions. This play tries to talk about the journey of a dancer to whom her art is bigger than anything else,” he says, on the phone from Chennai.

In the play, Vaidehi realizes that her accomplishments and hard work are not enough to enter the big league, where foreign junkets, major festivals and awards are all for sale.

A still from the play ‘Margazhi’

A still from the play ‘Margazhi’
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“Vaidehi has grown up the hard way, and when she has to choose between her art and recognition, she is in a quandary, and this forms the premise of the play,” Balakrishnan says.

For Balakrishnan who has worked closely with Bharatanatya dancers the story of the play is not fictional. “Being a man, I may not have endured this myself, but I have seen dancers who have. The Margazhi festival organised in Chennai every year offers slots to dancers for their performances, and there is always some kind of politics at play — this is what I have tried to bring to the fore.”

With Margazhi, Balakrishnan hopes to provide a platform for artistes to question the rules that have come to dictate art. “I believe that it is a different kind of abuse when an artiste does not have the freedom to practise her art,” he adds.

Anuradha Venkataraman, 42, who portrays Vaidehi in the play, has been a Bharatanatyam dancer for over 20 years. She feels that Vaidehi is a reflection of many artistes, who have gone through similar experiences. “Vaidehi is a complex character, and her journey is influenced by various events that take place in her life, and the people she meets,” she says.

Kabuli Wala Calling

Vijay Padaki, 83, has been in theatre for most of his life. His Kabuliwala Calling will celebrate Rabindranath Tagore’s ideals of peace and social justice. The story published in 1892, is about the bond between a child, Mini, and an old stranger, the Kabuli Wala.

The play is an original adaptation, developed at Bangalore Little Theatre (BLT). Vijay who returned to directing after a long hiatus feels this story will always strike a chord. “Some stories are relevant for all time because of the universal truths they contain and the timelessness of their appeal. This story treats the subject of ethnic prejudice with great understanding and warmth, showing that bridges are not difficult to build if we care to dip into the essence of human nature within us.”

We are living in an age when there is a danger of exclusiveness replacing inclusiveness, and prejudices replacing plurality, he adds.

A still from the play ‘Kabuliwalla Calling’

A still from the play ‘Kabuliwalla Calling’
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Vijay hopes to reach Tagore to a wide audience. “The tale has been taken up for the 160th anniversary, 120 years after it first appeared.”

Murtuza Khetty, 47, plays Mini’s father. Murtuza feels the story is pertinent even today. “It is about trust and empathy, about love between two people who do not have anything in common.”

Margazhi will be staged in Rangashankara, Bengaluru, on February 26 and February 27 at 3:30 pm and 7:30 pm. Tickets are available on BookMyShow. Kabuliwala Calling will be staged at Alliance Francaise, Bengaluru, on February 26 at 3:30 pm and 7:30 pm. Tickets are available at the venue. It will also be staged in Rangashankara on March 13.

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By Dipak

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