Shantaranga Theatre Group’s latest Kannada production Yayati was staged at the Don Russell Performing Arts Centre in Perth to a sell-out audience. The mythical story is about a king named Yayati, who incurs the wrath of sage Shukracharya for his philandering ways. He deceives his wife Devayani, Shukracharya’s daughter, and takes on her maid Sharmishta as his mistress.
The angry sage curses him with premature old age. However, he leaves a glimmer of hope for the hapless king.
If he can find someone willing to take on the curse, Yayati can get his youth back. But who would take on such a curse? The only person willing to sacrifice his youth for Yayati, is his own son Puru. Yayati clutches greedily at this straw offered to him.
While Puru suffers the agonies of old age, Yayati continues his pursuit of material pleasures. However, he soon realises the futility of his ways and returns his ill-gotten youth to its rightful owner Puru. Though an ancient tale, the story has a thought provoking, contemporary relevance.
The audience was spellbound as they watched the story unfold. Every character was played to perfection as the amateur actors delivered a flawless performance. The stage lighting and background music subtly conjured up the ambience of a royal palace.
Director Sushanth Shantaram, who also played the role of Yayati, told Indian Link, “The main challenge was to convince every actor about the essence of the story so that they could play their roles with confidence. The actors rehearsed for many months giving freely of their time and energy!”
Sushanth’s wife Vinutha took on a vital role, assisting with direction, looking after costume design, background score and lighting.
Why was this particular play chosen? Sushanth replIed, “I chose this play as a tribute to my father. It was the first play that he acted in, as Puru, and one that he often used to remember.”
Sharing an emotional moment from his life, Sushanth added, “When my father had a bypass surgery, I donated my blood for him. At the time, my father said that just as Puru gave his youth for his father, you have given your blood to me.”
Sushanth is also deeply influenced by famous playwright, actor and director Girish Karnad, whose debut play, by coincidence, happened to be Yayati.
Talking of his Perth-based theatre group’s vision, director Sushanth Shantaram said, “Shantaranga is our endeavour to bring peace and tranquility (shanta) through the strong and powerful waves (taranga) of theatre.”
On the back of last year’s successful Hindi debut production Raat – a taut thriller – Shantaranga has weaved its magic again with the Kannada production of Yayati, a mythological tale from ancient India.