An ensemble of around 18 actors takes the stage this weekend in Hyderabad to present three plays — Thighs, The Poto, and Tax Free by Canopy Theatre and Storyboard Productions. Directed by Eugien Jos Chirammel, Thighs is his way of seeing the Mahabharatha in a new light and is inspired by Bhasa’s Urubhangam, a Sanskrit play.

Eugien Jos Chirammel. PC: Special Arrangement

Urubhangam starts when Duryodhana, after a fierce battle with Bheema, is lying on his deathbed with a broken thigh. When Duryodhana’s wife, son, and parents come to Kurukshetra to see him one last time, he tells his son that Krishna and Bheema had cheated to kill him. “During my research on the Mahabharata, I realised that Duryodhana’s thighs are significant in the epic,” points out the director and elaborates, “Draupadi curses him during the vastrapaharanam (when she was disrobed in the Kaurava court). She tells him that he’ll meet his end because of his thighs. When Gandhari, Duryodhana’s mother, asks him to come to her sans clothes on the 17th day of the Kurukshetra war, he covers his pelvic area [and] she was not able to shield his body from any injury with her blessings. Thus, his hips remained vulnerable. In the last battle, Krishna reminds Bheema to hit the mace on Duryodhana’s thighs, leading to his death.”

The director has interlinked these references to create an impressionistic play, a physical theatre performance (narrating a story through physical representation). The 75-minute Telugu pouranika play with 18 actors incorporates Kalaripayattu and contemporary movements. The play was staged in May 2022 with Telugu actor Uttej portraying Duryodhana.

Cast of “Thighs.” PC: Special Arrangement

The production is complex, especially for actors, admits Eugien, who had created a 15-minute scene work on the subject for his college. Later, he worked on the script to turn it into a professional production. “The actors had sessions on physical practices to understand the nuances of the character. They had to mug up lines to comprehend pouranika Telugu. None of us use those words in our contemporary lives so they had to first relate to the lines to be able to articulate the emotion,” he says.

The second play, The Poto, an East Godavari slang for photo with 12 actors, takes the audience to the late Seventies when photographers took portraits with the use of a black cloth to cover the camera (only the lens was not covered) and the photographer. The 30-minute devised production, directed by Eugien, is a slapstick comedy depicting the travails of a photographer trying to capture a picture of the members of a joint family with his old camera. “It is a painful experience for a photographer when people of different emotions and ages in a family come together for a group photo,” says Eugien. Besides specific moments, the actors’ body language, dialogue delivery, and timing create comedy.

A scene from “Tax Free.” PC: Special Arrangement

Tax Free, the play by Chandrasekhar Pusalkar, has been adapted and directed by Soujanya Varma. The production focuses on a blind club as its members play pranks on each other to entertain, showing us ‘how the blind portray the world and how we don’t see their problems.’

Canopy Theatre and Storyboard Productions present Thighs, The Poto, and Tax Free at Rangbhoomi Spaces on November 11 from 6 pm onwards; Tickets 300


This article was originally posted on on November 10, 2023, and has been reposted with permission. To read the original article, click here.

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This post was written by Neeraja Murthy.

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