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Ibsen's modernism meets Rajasthani folk art

Popular Rajasthani vocalist and actress, Ila Arun, brings Mareechika, a celebrity-studded, Hindi-Marwari version of Henrik Ibsen's The Lady From The Sea to the city

The setting has changed drastically. The small Norwegian town from the original, The Lady From The Sea, has given way to the land-locked tourist town of Jaisalmer in Henrik Ibsen's heroine Ellida is now Rampyari, a lonely folk artist. Dialogues are delivered in a mix of Hindi and Marwari instead of formal 19th century English and the play is peppered with nearly 7 to 8 songs. But, Arun assures us, these are mere superficial changes made to suit the Indian adaptation of the play. The crux of the play remains the same as the original -- a woman's right to be heard.


Ravi Jhankal and Ila Arun play bhopa and bhopi in Mareechika

The Norway Ibsen Theatre Institute commissioned Arun's theatre group, Multi Arts Production, to work on an Ibsen play for the Delhi Ibsen Festival 2010. Arun chose to adapt The Lady From The Sea for it's modern outlook towards a woman's state in society as also because it is a much lesser known play by the modernist playwright (compared to A Doll's House or Hedda Gabler). In the play, the protagonist Ellida shares a strained relationship with her husband Dr Wanger after the death of their baby son. Dr Wanger fears for his wife's mental state and in this situation walks in a sailor, who was Ellida's former suitor. Ellida, a lighthouse-keeper's daughter, yearns for the freedom of the sea but she's hemmed in by a commitment to her family.

In Arun's adaptation, a bhopa and bhopi (narrator-characters from traditional Marwari theatre) take the audience through Rampyari's story with the help of another traditional motif -- the Phad, which is an illustrated painted scroll. "I've given a Marwari soul to the Norwegian play, with the Phad concept. A Phad is like a storyboard with an intricate layering of stories. Here, the bhopa and bhopa unveil each layer to narrate the entire story to the audience. Usually, such Phads are created for religious purposes but we got an entirely new one made because the story we had to say is different," explains the actor-singer, who has also co-directed the play along with KK Raina, the film, television and theatre actor as well as an award-winning scriptwriter.

Arun compares Ellida's sea to Rampyari's desert in her version. "My protagonist is as thirsty as the Lady From The Sea. She is a lonely woman living in a village near Jaisalmer and dealing with local beliefs, traditions and superstitions that stifle her desires and her voice," she explains. To bring in an authentic Rajasthani flavour, the group has collaborated with actual folk artists who perform dances like Ghoomar and Deha Taliya apart from a number of songs. Along with the folk artists, another highlight of the cast is the inclusion of popular actors like Ishita Arun (Rampyari) and Ravi Jhankal (bhopa).

On: September 3, 6.30 pm at Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point.
Call: 22824567 tickets Rs 500, Rs 350, Rs 250 and Rs 150

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