Mumbai performance: Attend a blindfolded storytelling session
A blindfolded storytelling session, drawing from a Japanese folk tale, presents a moving picture of a man's fight to protect a grand old tree
The willow tree holds a special place in the culture and folklore of countries across the world. On Ancestors' Day in China, its branches are hung on doors to ward off evil spirits, while the Jews find their use during the synagogue service on Hoshana Rabbah. In English and Japanese folklore, the tree finds itself in the supernatural realm, acquiring a life of its own. But what remains constant is the age-old human connect with the droopy willow, cemented further through cultural references. When Delhi-based performance artiste Anant Dayal came across one such folktale from a Japanese collection of stories, he felt it could lend itself to a spoken word performance. Last summer, using the piano accordion "as a fellow storyteller", and to add rhythm and music to his narration, he created a 50-minute solo act, The Spirit of the Willow Tree, embellishing the story with details but keeping the essence intact. Throughout the act, Dayal remains blindfolded. After having travelled to cities in north India, the performance makes its debut in Mumbai tonight.
Anant Dayal incorporates the sonic and visual potential of the piano accordion in his work as a storyteller-musician
"At its heart, it is the account of a young man's abiding concern for an old willow tree that stands outside his village. As the story progresses, his fight to save the tree from being felled becomes increasingly difficult," shares Dayal. On another level are the binaries of greed and grace, love and loss, and man and nature,
reminding one of Shel Silverstein's children's classic, The Giving Tree, or the heartrending poem, On Killing a Tree, by Mumbai's very own Gieve Patel.
"How we have come to disregard the natural world around us is the parallel theme of the performance," says Dayal. But why do it blindfolded? "I found it allows me to immerse [myself] deeper in the story. It seems to work similarly for the audience, too. We have stopped listening to the sounds around us. Through this, the attention shifts towards listening, which is key," he answers.
The willow tree has varied cultural connotations across the world
For a city that has witnessed the massacre of 5,000 trees recently, even as the threat of further loss of its green cover looms large, perhaps the timing of the performance couldn't be better. When we point this out, Dayal recalls the reaction to his performance in Dharamshala. "People came up to me and shared that this was the story of their beautiful city, where trees were making way for malls. While we need progress, is there a way of going about it with sensitivity? This question needs to be addressed."
On Tonight, 8 pm onwards AT Studio Tamaasha, 76, Aram Nagar Part 2, Versova, Andheri West.
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