On stage today from Bengaluru, the powerful and mighty ‘Bhima’, directed by Anitha Santhanam, devised and performed by Vivek Vijayakumaran and Sachin Gurjale tells the exceptional tale of the 2nd Pandava prince.
Bhima is a compelling story about a Pandava who wants his story to be retold. We have come across several interpretations, versions, and perspectives of the Mahabharata, but this one is unique in its own right. For starters, this performance doesn’t need to encompass the entire tale, it is complete the way it is. Secondly, it peels off Bhima, layer by layer, making you feel one with the character. Bhima, the invigorating one, the hungry one, the conflicted one has always been caught in the ‘middle’ of all battles. He carries the load of his brothers for battles and beyond, is forced to share Draupadi and is torn between loving his brother’s survival and grieving his son Ghatotkach’s demise. The loyal companion that he is, Bhima has to keep strength against all odds.
The story however is not what excites you about this performance. It is physical theatre at possibly its best. There are only two performers on stage, but the way they occupy space is a delight to watch. The actor’s body extends to all ends and the music is equally mesmerising. The narrative is created by the part each of these actors play in telling you the story of Bhima. The combination and complementarity of the two performers fit ever so well, making this performance a visual grandeur. The music is only helped by the brilliant acoustics inside the auditorium as each and every sound is revered. The light setup has been kept simple and effective, and its appearance borrows heavily from a set of three candles that are lit on stage throughout the performance. The performers lend support to each other’s skills while breaking their mystique, only to interact with one another on several occasions, which lends a deeper meaning to the narrative. For most part however, the conversation is carried out not by words, but by body movements, music and facial expressions.
The flow of the narrative makes it hard not to empathise with Bhima. As an audience, you get involved bit by bit in the life of a human being who gets pulled in different directions without getting his fair share of appreciation. Who does he complain to? In the face of adversity and tribulations, when he wants to give up; his social roles and expectations create barriers, which are almost impossible to break. He is a fallen hero with a façade of victory, covered by a shroud that once removed can challenge conceptions of status and power. Such is the quality of their performance, that one can be caught in a whirlpool of unanswered questions, whilst just being awe-struck at the act being carried out on stage.
Bhima has truly been brought to life by this work. The inner-conflict of Bhima is your commotion. You begin to place a Bhima around you and connect with the Bhima inside you, yearning to make an impact. But what you should also watch this performance for is the pure genius of physical and body theatre that limits the need for dialogues. Each and every movement is life-like and captivating. It is thoroughly enjoyable and a well-deserved candidate at the 12th edition of Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards.
By Rijul Kataria