The play is centered around the philosophical question of whether an individual’s identity is derived from the head or the body, and raises issues of perfection and imperfection, of contentment and dissatisfaction. The story is told by Bhagavata who plays the multi-functional role of a stage manager, music director and narrator.
Cast & Crew:
|Child||Nathan (Shoorjo) Burgess/Tatai|
|Dancers||Sejal Vora, Shoumala Ghosh|
|Lighting Designer||Subrata Das|
|Lighting Operation||Sebastien Das, Amit Ghosh,Agnita Kundu|
|Music Direction||John Bachman|
|Sound Operation||Gautam Bandyopadhyay, John Bachman|
|Stage Design||Scott Burgess, Somali Misra Burgess|
|Stage Management||Somali Misra Burgess|
Playwright Girish Karnad’s Hayavadana draws on a tale from the Kathasaritsagara, an eleventh century collection of Indian folk tales by Somadeva, and its adaptation in Thomas Mann’s The Transposed Heads. Hayavadana, meaning “a man with a horse’s head”, explores the destructive effects on the close friendship between the “intellectual” Devadatta and the “man of the body” Kapila after the arrival of Devadatta’s wife Padmini, who adored Devadatta’s intellect but loved Kapila’s physique. The drama unfolds curiously when the friends kill themselves over their failed love, but resurrected with their heads dramatically transposed.
Karnad, one of India’s foremost contemporary playwrights, has written over ten plays in Kannada since 1961. Hayavadana was written in 1971, which Karnad himself translated into English a few years later. His plays often explored existentialism and the reinterpretation of history and myths. Although Karnad’s surreal depiction of the exchange of heads in Hayavadana stretches far beyond psychological and physical realism, this very unreality in the play provides a basis for philosophically exploring the age-old conflict about the superiority between mind and body. Transposing heads in a theatrical setting is challenging; I deviated from Karnad’s specification of wearing masks by emphasizing the eventual establishment of the head’s superiority in the play. Thus I viewed heads’ invariability in terms of their emotional manifestations, but made bodies with their associated mannerisms interchangeable instead.
Karnad, a Rhodes as well as a Fulbright Scholar, has also acted in, directed, and scripted a number of award-winning films and documentaries, but his heart has always been in the theatre. He has been a harsh critic of the rise of religious fundamentalism in India. Karnad has received numerous prizes and awards for his plays, including India’s highest civilian award Padma Bhushan in 1992.