I watched this play written by Girish Karnad, staged by the team Benaka, directed by B V Karantha. Though this is a popular play, luckily I had no clue about the story.
Story (Warning: Only spoilers!)
Before the main story, the “Bhagavataru” (Bhagavataru is usually present in Yakshagana and the one who sings in background, the one who narrates some part of story. This play too had some shades of Yakshagana.) explains the unusualities in Ganesha’s body – elephant’s head, broken ivory etc. Then enters a horse faced person(“hayavadana”) who has a different story behind that abnormality. But since this character is present as a humorous side-kick lets go to the main story.
Two friends Devadutta and Kapila are distinctly different from each other – in terms of knowledge (Devadutta is a knowledged poet and other has knowledge only due to his association Devadutta, Kapila is energetic, active, has a well-toned body and full of life. The story starts when Devadutta is mesmerized by the beauty of Padmini and he confesses that to his pal. Fixation-struck Devadutta even takes an oath that he would even give his hands to Goddess Kali and his head to “Lord Rudra”. Passion of this degree drives his friend Kapila to find out this girl for Devadutta. Kapila meets her and gives the identity of his friend and conveys his friend’s wish to be married to her and she agrees. After meeting her, Kapila too is floored and impressed by her beauty and child-like behaviour, and for a fraction of second thinks that he is better suited to her than Devadutta. Nevertheless Devadutta and Padmini marry but as the time grows, Devadutta observes that Padmini is more fond of the qualities of Kapila than his and this causes discomfort to him. He is not actually jealous of Kapila but starts disliking himself. But Kapila is a honest person and has no hidden intentions. On one journey to Ujjayini, Devadutta gets too jealous and uncomfortable with the behaviour of Padmini with Kapila, and gets himself away from them and visits nearby Kali temple.
Now he is reminded of his oath and decides to behead himself. Kapila goes to find his missing friend and on finding the dead body in the temple is too shocked at the incident and blames himself for this and decides to behead himself. Pregnant Padmini goes in search of her companions and is unable to hold back the grief at the sight of two dead bodies. Driven into the valley of emotions, she too tries to kill herself, but Goddess Kali appears at this point. On hearing the woes, she decides to grant life to these two people. Padmini joins the heads back to their bodies and Kali incarnates life in them.
And here is the twist. In a hurry, Padmini has mismatched the heads to thier bodies. Though they dance happily on getting a re-birth and on changed body-heads, the problem arises when they have to decide who is Devadutta now, or importantly who is now Padmini’s husband. Head vs body debate happens and both claim themselves to be her rightful husband. When debate goes out of their hands, they approach a scholar, who rules in favour of the one who has now Devadutta’s head (Kapila’s body) citing the reason that head is the greatest organ. This disappoints Kapila(with Kapila’s head) and he escapes into forest. Padmini and Devadutta now lead a life with their kid. Body sometimes wins over the mind for example when Devadutta’s body makes him fight in a game of wrestling(mallayuddha!). Also we are told later that Kapila too wrote some poems. Slowly, as Devadutta has other scholarly things to do than to tone his body (which was Kapila’s), he finds it deteriorate and he can not sustain like earlier. Meanwhile, Kapila has now conditioned his body through rigorous activities and work. Also as the time passes, Padmini again starts remembering Kapila and even visits him with her kid.
Devadutta is angry and comes to Kapila and they remember their past lives. They recall the effect of exchange of head and body.
And then they decide to fight and kill each other.(This time I can’t make a mention of the bigamy option as I said in my previous post! Because that option was thought for a second but they dismiss it!) Irony is that the same hands cut the same heads again. Too much to handle, Padmini decides to go Sati (burns herself with both their dead bodies).
As usual, knowing the story and watching a drama is very different. The beauty of drama lies in its performance and stageplay. The use of dolls for narration and as fillers, singing and music by the group, the comedy in the role of Goddess Kali, sidekick in hayavadana and light humour thrown at many places, musically and linguistically rich songs and dialogues were the highlights. T S Nagabharana as Bhagavataru was good. He along with singing, played harmonium and beat some tabala too! Mico Manju as Kapila and Vidya Venkataram as Padmini were good. Poornachandra Tejaswi as Devadutta was very good.
If my mother got to speak to actress Tara, my brother enquired a German who had come to watch. I am curious if he really understood and was thinking how I could have explained him the nuances and nicety of the drama. Which is why I tried detailing the story above, to see how much can I convey via words.