THEATRE: MAITHREYI M R Deccan Herald, Sunday, December 07, 2003
Where there is hope there is way. And showing this ‘way of hope’ will be In the Hour of God, an English play brought on stage by Pattabi Rama Reddy Productions. Based on Sri Aurobindo’s magnum opus Savitri, the play invokes the traditional myth of Satyavan-Savitri to narrate a tale of undying love, which can even conquer death. “This script was originally meant to be a film. The original English cinema script was written by T P Rama Reddy. It then passed through several revisions by Dr Chadrashekar Kambar, Rama Reddy himself, Rajeev Taranath, and the final English script was written by Rama Reddy and myself. Dr U R Aanthamurthy was the script consultant. The script consultant for the play is Dr Arshia Sattar,” explains Konarak Reddy, director of the play.
A longstanding cinema project, it never materialised for want of sponsors. Finally, it is coming on stage as a play in English. “This is a tribute to the memory of my mother Snehalatha Reddy, who had a great love for theatre. She founded Madras Players in the early ’60s. I was only a child then and she would take me to rehearsals and plays. In Bangalore, she founded Abhinaya along with Ashok Mandanna. This play is for her and my father, all of 83 now, who essentially wrote this script to highlight Aurobindo’s idea that life is all about hope. ”Basically a musician, Konarak is directing a play for the first time. “But I have all the veterans like Arundathi, Jagdish, and Ashok Mandanna. I have done the music too. It is a fusion of Western and Indian classical styles,” elaborates Konarak who believes that all forms of music can mingle together easily in harmony.
It is the free spirit of Savitri that is being celebrated in this play. There was a context for Aurobindo to create such a ‘free spirit’. For that was the time, as feminist scholar Susie Tharu writes in her essay ‘Tracing Savithri’s Pedigree,’ when writers like Aurobindo, Toru Dutt and Sarojini Naidu found it necessary to “rebut the negative image the British projected (of Indians), and redeem, if not the present, at least the past”. And Aurobindo revived Savitri, who through her purity, power, and love could alone save Satyavan (the nation and the human condition itself) from ‘death’. That such redemption placed an enormous burden on the Indian women who came within its defining scope is another argument. Something that does not really concern In the Hour of God. But “Aurobindo’s Savitri offers the viewer, in these times of pessimism, a vision of hope, a prophetic vision of brave new, love-filled world,” insists Konarak.
Even the traditional attribute ‘Sati Savitri’ is a mere connotation forced on her, whereas, in real, Savitri is “strong and multi-dimensional”. The play promises to be a grand affair, with state-of-the-art audio, video design by Challam Benurkar, sets by John Mathew & Studioline, lighting design by Daniella Zehnder, costumes by Julie Kagti, Sutra and Grasshopper, special visual effects on the backdrop, and thespian actors. In the main cast are Keertana Kumar, Sameer Sheikh and Shiva Subramaniam. They have even reworked the language to make it contemporary and add humour to an otherwise serious play. Narada, the sutradhar, begins the play from Aurobindo’s Ashram in Pondicherry! The play will be staged on December 11, 12 and 13 and tickets are available at K C Das, Casa Piccola outlets, Bombay Store and Supermarket.