A 150-member epic cast comprising children and young adults is set to enthral you with the best moments from The Ramayana
Vivan Roshan as Ram and Taanya Kapur as Sita
Whether as classical renditions of the original or as re-tellings with new and improvised endings, great epics can stand the test of time. A new play by Raell Padamsee's ACE Productions is along these lines. Titled Rediscover the Epic, the play, which has a cast of 150 children and young adults, stages over the coming weekend at the recently restored Royal Opera House Theatre.
"Everybody knows the story of the Ramayana, so, a straight-out rendition wouldn't be as attractive to audiences," says director Karla Singh, whose repertoire includes a host of plays for both children and adults. Conceptualised by Padamsee and scripted by Krishna Thakkar, Rediscover the Epic sticks to the original plot, infusing it with contemporary concerns. "Krishna and I thought we should focus on six issues, including casteism and loyalty. The plot shifts between a modern-day setting and the ancient fantastical time, but nothing is forced on the script," says Padamsee.
The cast rehearses at a Bandra venue. Pic/SAYYEDâÂÂSAMEER ABEDI.
Among the episodes that the makers wanted to highlight is the one where Ram and Sita get married and the elders realise that rather than giving dowry, it is better to use that money to help the poor. "A vast majority of Indians have lived with the Ramayana — we learn it, study it and quote it, but do we really understand it?" says Singh, adding that, "The play is true to the scale of an epic. It has the regal, the crown, the pageantry, the works." The entire set is through video and 3D, with a lot of cinematic visualisation, and there is a good dose of period costumes. With music by composer and pianist Merlin D'Souza and choreography by Prince, the play has a wedding sequence as well as a battle scene.
At the heart of the spectacle, say both Padamsee and Singh, the plot focuses on the familial and intimate relationships. However, the real spectacle is the sight of an ensemble so many child actors, some of them as young as six.
The cast comprises students from across schools and NGOs in the city, among which are also a few who are differently-abled. The young actors were cast as early as October last year and have been rehearsing for nearly five months. "We have juggled exams, tuitions, parties and timetables for students from across 50 schools!" says Padamsee, whose theatre company also created the much-lauded production, The Sound of Music. It could be that 150 vivacious young actors may steal your hearts as easily as Sita did Ram's.