Sunday, January 10, 2016


Hayavadana (HorseFace) is one of Girish Karnad’s most remarkable works.
Benaka, (Bengaluru Nagara Kalavidaru), one of the oldest theatre groups in Karnataka founded by theatre veteran and parallel-cinema pioneer B.V.Karanth, staged the play at Rangashankara. 
This is 375th presentation of play on Sunday 10th January 2016. The star cast was led by noted film maker T.S. Nagabharana as the narrator (Bhagavataru), PoornaChandra Tejaswi as Devadutta, MicoChandru as Kapila
Our society, a Brahmin is learned and wise but physically weak. Likewise, the image of Devadatta is stereotypical of a male Brahmin whereas Kapila, a Kshatriya, is a wrestler and is not as wise as Devadatta. Here the caste of the men plays a major role in the portrayal of both the men, which is true of our Indian society where we judge people on the basis of their caste and creed. 
The human body, is a device for the completion of human destiny. Even the transposition of heads did not liberate the protagonists from the psychological limits imposed by nature. Karnad’s play poses a different problem, that of human identity in a world of tangled relationships. When the play opens, Devadatta and Kapila are the close friends-‘one mind, one heart’, as the Bhagavata describes them. Devadatta is a man of intellect, Kapila a ‘man of the body’. Their relations get complicated when Devadatta marries Padmini.
Kapila falls in love with Padmini and she too starts drifting towards him. The friends kill themselves and in a scene, hilariously comic but at the same time full of dramatic connotation, Padmini transposes their heads, giving Devadatta, Kapila’s body and Kapila Devadatta’s. As a result Padmini gets the desired ‘Man’. Kali understood each individuals moral fibre and was indifferent than the usual stereotypical portrayal of god and goddesses.

The result is a confusion of identities which reveals the ambiguous nature of human personality. Initially Devadatta- actually the head of Devadatta on Kapila’s body- behaves differently from what he was before. But slowly he changes to his former self. So does Kapila, faster than Devadatta. But there is a difference. Devadatta stops reading texts, does not write poetry while Kapila is haunted by the memories in Devadatta’s body.

 Padmini, after the exchange of heads, had felt that she had the best of both the men, gets slowly disappointed. Of the three only she has the capacity for complete experience. She understands but cannot control the circumstances in which she is placed. Her situation is beautifully summed up by the image of river and the scarecrow in the choric songs.

A swordfight that leaves both the friends dead brings the baffling story to end. The death of the three protagonists was not portrayed tragically; the deaths serve only to emphasize the logic behind the absurdity of the situation.

The sub plot of ‘Hayavadana’, the horse-man, deepens the significance of the main theme of incompleteness by looking at it from different perspective. The horse man’s search for completeness ends comically, with his becoming a complete horse. The animal body triumphs over what is considered, the best in man, the Uttamaga, the human heads! Probably to make a point Karnad names the play ‘Hayavadana’, human’s search for completeness.

Another factor which was impressed is the performance of the supporting cast. Characters such as Hayavadana, Goddess Kali, and the talking dolls have only about five minutes of stage time, however their performance lingers in mind for quite some time after you walked out of the auditorium.

The 150 minutes play with a break of 15 minutes, mesmerizes the audience with songs, stage setting, narration, humour dialogues and acting by all the actors.
It was an excellent time spent watching a Kannada Drama.
written Monday 11January2016

1 comment:

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