In the dream world of Maya
Young Siddhartha left home without telling his mother, Mayadevi, where he was going. The mother is left alone anticipating her son’s homecoming. Does this sound like one is retelling the oft heard and read story about Gautam Buddha leaving home? It could be, but we are talking about the play Mayadevika Sapana (Dreams of Mayadevi) that is being performed at Sama Natakghar Gurukul from March 23.
Taking two symbolic characters, Siddhartha and Mayadevi, from Buddha’s life, playwright Abhi Subedi has weaved the common consciousness that Nepalis are going through at this time of conflict. This play is not devoid of poetic language that is characteristic of Subedi’s plays and gives the audience some memorable lines.
For Nisha Sharma Pokharel, Mayadeviko Sapana is her first professional undertaking as a
director. Sharma, who has proved her mettle as a versatile actor, has done equally well in the field of direction. As well as being the director, she is the protagonist too.
Of her experience, Sharma says, “As a director I had to look after everything and that made it difficult for me to concentrate fully in my role. However, my husband Sunil, Birendra Hamal and the students, helped me. Sometimes during rehearsals, while concentrating on my role, I found it difficult to discern how the others were doing.”
Sharma has cast another woman as her shadow on stage. “In the script, most of the part was that of Mayadevi’s monologue and I had to think really hard to find a means to make it interesting. Then I thought of using the shadow of Mayadevi so that it wouldn’t be monotonous for the audience.”
What she found equally challenging was the set itself as “the script demanded change of scenes like in the films to depict post-war scenes or the dream”.
Veteran director Sunil Pokharel says, “First of all, the subject matter itself is relevant to our socio-political realities and I liked the way the play was presented.”
According to him, the most innovative element in the play was the perfect blending of realism and surrealism and “the different devices used like the shadow of Mayadevi and the role of
the former army officer, and the scene of the jungle after war”. These things have, he feels, taken the play to a new height.
Pokharel says that dressing the helpers in Tharu costume in the dream scene was
one innovative touch by the director because Buddha’s mother Mayadevi was from Kapilvastu. And he is appreciative of the use of torchlights that has made the play interesting.
Mayadevika Sapana will be staged regularly at Sama Natakghar Gurukul at 4pm till April 25.
The writer’s perspective
How would you describe your play — Mayadevi ka sapana?
This play addresses the most current issue in Nepali history that has become a predicament now. An old woman who has lost her son in this melee, and an armless man who has seen the futility of war bring three dimensions of time together — past, present and the future.
As the playwright, how did you find the stage performance?
The performance was overwhelming. It is far more consummate than the one Nisha Sharma took to India.
Did you feel that the play as a text had come alive in the performance?
It has. I did not cry, only felt sad, when I wrote the play, but cried when I saw it on stage. Nisha is so powerful.
How far has the director been able to glean the feelings, mood and impressions you were trying to create in the play?
I think she has been remarkably successful, but she will see more nuances of the text as the play goes on.
When you write a play, do you give enough hints for the setting or stage direction?
I think I do. The director follows a poetic imaginary in a play and stage direction is that poetic imagination. Sunil best understands me. Puskar Gurung did in Thamelko Yatra and Nisha has done it here.
Unlike in a cinema, a play always has room for improvement. Would you like to make any suggestions?
I would still suggest the director to bring the role of Mayadevi in moments of crisis. She has for some reason avoided that part of the text, but a director has difficulties.
What did you like the most about the performance and is there anything that disappointed you?
I like Nisha’s acting as well as Basanta Bhatta’s, and the effect of sound and light. The creation of a surrogate self of Mayadevi following her still distracts the singularity of the attention of the audience on Mayadevi.