Kathakali-Flamenco fusion revisits Draupadi’s travails

New Delhi, Nov 7 (IANS) The aesthetics of Spain’s Flamenco and Kerala’s Kathakali blended well to tell the tales of violence against women here on Friday.

Titled “Draupadi”, the 75-minute fusion saw the coming together of nine artistes from two continents, thanks to Cesar Lorente Raton, a leading theatre personality from Spain. The dance-drama was presented as part of a week-long cultural festival coinciding with Kerala’s foundation day.

Madrid-based Raton focused on the horrific episode of the Mahabharata – the heroine facing near-violation of her dignity. Dusshasana, who harbours rancour against Draupadi’s husbands, tries to undress her before divine help saves her.

The anti-hero is eventually killed by Bhima, who is one of Draupadi’s husbands, in the Mahabharata war. The euphoria of the husband and the wife comes as a mix of Flamenco and Kathakali movements.

Spanish danseuse Bettina Castaño, initially in a multi-colour dress and then in black after the killing of Dusshasana, performed the role of Draupadi using techniques of Flamenco that has its cultural moorings in southwest Europe. Biju Kumar and Biju Lal played the roles of green-faced Bhima and red-beard Dusshasana.

Indian pop star Suneeta Rao and singer Radakrishnan delivered songs in languages ranging from English to Hindi to Sanskrit to Malayalam.

The show began with an extract from Vishnu Sahasranamam that lists 1,000 names of the protector Hindu God. The production also used Kathakali’s moving-stage techniques, where Dusshasana entered the scene through the aisle and later used a part of the audience space while fighting with his enemy.

Director Cesar, who studied in Britain, said that he was shocked to see how Draupadi in the Vyasa classic was made into a commodity. “She was pawned during a gamble by her husband. It’s public humiliation,” he said. “I thought the story has a universal theme which anyone can relate to. It’s only increasingly relevant today,” he added.

It was a fellow theatre personality back in Spain who suggested Cesar give Kathakali a contemporary twist like in ‘Draupadi’. “I worked on the idea for almost a year before Kathakali met Flamenco on stage,” he said.

Cesar, who shared nearly a decade-long relation with India (especially Kerala), has been artistically cooperating with Kerala Tourism from 2004.

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