What happens when roles are reversed in a male-dominated theatre practice like yakshagana?
India Foundation for the Arts grantee and theatre practitioner Sharanya Ramprakash’s Akshayambara explores the conflicts in tradition, gender, power and morality that are inherent in yakshagana.
The experimental play uses both modern theatrical tools and the dance drama to create a contemporary narrative that raises questions on female representation and male ownership. Drawing from research and personal experience, the performance imagines a reversal of roles in the popular yakshagana plot of Draupadi Vastrapaharana.
A male artist in streevesha (female costume) plays the virtuous Draupadi and espouses the cause of women, while in a tradition-defying move, a woman dons the pradhana purusha vesha (masculine form) of Kaurava (a legendary king from the Mahabharatha) who is driven by lust and power.
What happens to the interpretation and performance of gender when a man plays a woman and when a man is played by a woman? Who is the real woman and who is the real man? We see a constant shift in power between the actors, as they shift from the cauki (green room) to stage, engaged in a tussle that blurs the boundaries of stage and reality, male and female, thereby examining the conflicts in tradition, gender, power and morality.
Written and directed by Sharanya Ramprakash, Akshayambara received several nominations at the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) 2016, winning Best Original Script (Sharanya Ramprakash) and Best Actor in a Lead Role – Male (Prasad Cherkady).
Sharanya is a stage actor, director and one of the founders of Dramanon, Bangalore. Over the last eight years, she has directed six full-length productions that have been staged over 75 times across the country. She received the INLAKS Theatre Award in 2014, and had trained at the Udupi Yakshagana Kendra under the tutelage of Guru Sanjeeva Suvarna. She received a grant from India Foundation for the Arts under the Arts Practice Programme in 2015, which was partly supported by Voltas India Limited.
This event is part of the Kala Utsavam Indian Festival of Arts. Click here for all events.
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