Torn between love and duty

Aug 11, 2012, 11:40 IST | Surekha S

Six years back, Girish Karnad's powerful, dramatic monologue, Flowers, created a stir with its exploration of love, duty, loyalty and honour through the eyes of a priest, torn between his love for God and a courtesan. The play returns to Mumbai, and Rajit Kapoor, who plays the pious priest, takes us through the journey

A story based on a folk tale, Girish Karnad’s Flowers, was first released in 2006. Now, six years later, the play continues to be one of the most powerful plays with a contemporary sensibility. The play is a collaboration between Rage Theatre, Ranga Shankara, India’s most respected playwright Girish Karnad and a well-known Delhi director Roysten Able. Owing to the brilliant sets and high drama, this play strikes a chord with audiences each time it is staged. After a long gap, the play will be staged this weekend at the NCPA.

Though he has performed the character of the priest several times on stage, Rajit Kapoor admits that he gets nervous, till today. “I still get the jitters,” says the seasoned actor. The one hour-20 minute play requires Kapoor to be alone on stage and keep the audience’s attention captured for that entire time span. “That is the most difficult part. Being on stage alone without any co-actors, without any support — it is a very difficult form of theatre,” adds Kapoor.

The play revolves around a pious priest who violates his dharma (duty) by falling in love with a courtesan. He is torn between his love for God and his love for the courtesan, between his duty towards the King and his wife. His love and duty collide on a single night and after things have come to an end, he delves into a monologue about his life. The play explores the concepts of duty, morality, loyalty, love and honour through the character of the priest and throws light on different human conditions. “The story looks into the mind of a priest and what he has been through,” adds Kapoor.

When we quiz Kapoor about the play having changed over the years, he says, “The basic structure has remained the same. The design, lighting and most other aspects are the same. But the rhythm and graph of the play changes from show to show. The play is open to different emotional interpretations,” explains Kapoor adding, “When I first heard the play I felt it was challenging. It was an attempt to achieve something different. We haven’t seen a play of such a standard.”

Kapoor reveals that the last time he performed the play was about a year back in America, and every time he has to perform the play he has to put in some amount of effort. “I have to rehearse and make sure I remember the dialogues. I have to go over the lines and recapitulate everything in my mind. One week before the show, it becomes part of me,” he admits.

The many moods of Rajit Kapoor as the pious priest in Girish Karnad’s Flowers

Critical and popular acclaim for flowers
Girish Karnad had premiered Flowers at Bangalore’s popular and prestigious Ranga Shankara Theatre Festival, back in 2006. The play, set in Karnataka’s Chitradurga region, boasts of a pan-Indian cast and crew.

It has completed over 50 performances across Mumbai, Bangalore, New Delhi (opening the National School of Drama Festival) and Kolkata to packed and appreciative audiences.

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