Suresh Acharya

New Performance

Grant Period: Over two months

The New Performance programme will emphasise the need to strengthen the contemporary performing artists’ emotional and artistic associations with local performance forms. This grant enables Bikaner-based theatre director/actor, Suresh Acharya, to work with the rammat artists of his region for the purpose of evolving a performance script based on Rashmirathi, a Hindi poem.

The critically acclaimed and visually arresting poem, Rashmirathi (The Sun’s Charioteer), written by eminent Hindi poet, Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar’ (1908-1974) is a contemporary reflection of the Mahabharat character, Karna. In simple and effective language, the poem narrates Karna’s ties to the Kauravas and the complexity of his relationship with his half-brothers, the Pandavas. Suresh’s interest lies in the text’s contemporisation of Karna as a figure who represents those suppressed and sidelined by the mainstream. It is this otherness of Karna that attracts Suresh to Rashmirathi. The work will tell the story of Karna not only from the perspective of the Mahabharat but will also explore the idea of Karna as the other who exists even today. Suresh and his group grew up watching the rammats. The popular folk form of rammat is derived from ramna (to play) in Rajasthani.

The project will comprise of different interconnected stages. In the first stage, Suresh and his group shall study different styles and forms of rammat performances. In the second, they will undertake an in-depth analysis of Karna’s character as narrated through the seven sargs (sections) of Rashmirathi, and evolve a tentative, scene-wise structure that informs the group’s workshops with the rammat artists. The third stage will witness the theatre artists engaging with the rammat performers under the guidance of senior rammat singer, Pandit Narayan Dasji Ranga. The actors will learn to recite the Rashmirathi lines in the rammat style supported by the harmonium, nagada, and chamchama from Panditji and his artists. It is a challenge for Suresh and his actors to respect differences while finding a meeting point between the poem and the rammat style to create a new form of performance.

Suresh Acharya will draft the Rashmirathi performance script, which is to be presented as a vachik abhinaya performance for a small audience in Bikaner at the end of May 2011. The performance will feature orchestration of the actors’ dramatised speech and chorus, recitation of the poem in the rammat style, and musical compositions created with nagada and chamchama.