The Mahabharata and Ramayana are very important and relevant even today. Thus, movies, TV shows, and plays reprise the stories from these ancient texts. Recently, a Pondicherry-based theatre group Adishakti has been performing plays based on these epics. Their popular productions, Brhannala and The Tenth Head, have come to Mumbai for a number of shows. While Brhannala discusses the story of Arjuna during his exile in the Mahabharata, The Tenth Head revolves around the King of Lanka, Ravana, and his famous 10 heads. Through the play, the ten heads become a metaphor for the tension that exists between the individual and the collective.
Ravana has been portrayed in text and pop culture as the man with 10 heads. Placed next to each other, the heads together are not symmetrical, as there are four on one side, and five on the other, the tenth head being at the center. Aesthetically, the body is disproportionate. The tenth head (played by Vinay Kumar) wants to find a way around this, so that he can be more in sync with the other heads. But while the nine heads conform to a common manner of behavior, the tenth head is the one with the intellect, the might, and all the other great things Ravana was known for. In order to be independent of the other heads, the tenth head asks a group of artists to find a solution to his problem. Meanwhile, the artists apply their own interpretation of the 10 heads, leaving them even more skewered than before.
If you watch plays for light entertainment, The Tenth Head is not for you. This play appeals to those who love theatre and understand the complexity of performing on stage. It is all about being entranced by one actor, who only uses actions to keep you hooked. The use of dialogue in the play is minimal and also includes an original song. But the story is mainly portrayed through Kumar’s use of gestures and vague actions. His talent and practice come across in his performance. He plays a very convincing part with very limited props. The play of light is brilliantly done throughout the show. With a projector reflecting parts of the story through animation, various panels are put together and changed multiple times to create a 3D screen effect. Together, the lights, music, and actors give you a performance unlike anything you’ve seen on stage before.
If you want a glimpse at the play, watch the trailer here:
Don’t forget to catch the play the next time it stages in your city!