Rivers of life

Kathmandu :

For the Gurukul regulars, Jiban dekhi jiban samma is yet another play after Agniko katha (written by Abhi Subedi and directed by Sunil Pokharel) delving into Buddhist philosophy and sensibilities. Based on the myth of arahat (salvation) of nun Upalika (renamed Utpal in the play) during Buddha’s time, both the playwright

and director have tried their best to make the play as contemporary and as interesting as possible.

The play unfolds with the exposition of the tyrannical rule of a king. Unable to live under such despotic rule and finding no way out or security, hundreds of women decide to become nuns. Nuns, not by choice or true devotion but victims of circumstances, these women cannot win over their senses and attain true nunhood.

They set out in search of a meaning in their life after becoming nuns and try to find an answer for their quest from monks and nuns they meet on the way. They are recommended to meet Utpal, the nun who had attained deliverance by lord Buddha’s grace, after going through innumerable sufferings of extreme kinds in her multiple rebirths.

Utpal tells them about the sufferings she had gone through being a woman. Enlightened by Utpal’s experiences, the nuns derive their own meaning of life.

This is the story based on the myth. The difficult task was to weave this simple story into an interesting and artistic play. Pokharel and co-director/choreographer Birendra Hamal have created magic to make the play visually appealing.

Using the story telling format, a narrator follows the characters and overlooks the incidents and narrates them to the audience.

The live music given by Sarita Mishra and Hamal has added that extra flavour to the play. The sound of water created by the rain stick was very effective.

Certain artistic techniques and devices like walking in slow motion, muting of the voices, the narrator simultaneously speaking to the audience and characters made watching the play a refreshing experience. The furling of long lengths of cloths (like sarees) by the actors to emulate the flow of a river is something worth seeing.

The background sound during the birth of a baby, the birds chirping and Budhha’s teachings to his disciples and the Buddham saranam gachhami tune add to take the play out of the ordinary.

Nisha Sharma dominates the play and is able to arouse powerful feelings in the audience. Some of members of the audience were so overwhelmed when Utpal loses both her children that they literally howled along with Sharma though the play was produced on Brechtian epic theatre concept, which expects audience to remain emotionally detached.

Rajan Khatiwada with his body painted to emulate a black cobra successfully carried out the hissing, serpentine movements and flickering of the tongue, and is able to arouse fear in

the audience. Rajkumar Pudasaini’s role as narrator and that of the tyrant king is also commendable.

The play will appeal to an audience that is interested in something that is intellectually demanding. One will enjoy Jiban dekhi jiban samma for its deep feminist and philosophical concerns. Even for those who enjoy other kinds of plays, this play won’t disappoint. It has elements like laughter, humour, irony, pity, fear and bliss. (The play will be stage till August 11)