Exploring identity and language

Veteran Indian actress Arundhati Nag plays a novelist and her alter ego in Girish Karnad's Bikhre Bimb - Broken Images.
Veteran Indian actress Arundhati Nag plays a novelist and her alter ego in Girish Karnad's Bikhre Bimb - Broken Images.PHOTO: ESPLANADE - THEATRES ON THE BAY

Bikhre Bimb stars only veteran Indian actress Arundhati Nag, but you could call it a two-woman show.

Nag plays novelist Manjula Nayak, who achieves fame with her first English novel - in contrast to her short stories written in Kannada, which receive scant attention.

But she also appears as Nayak's alter ego in video form, addressing her through a television screen and questioning whether she is betraying her roots and her language.

The actress says: "The play is a dialogue between a person and her doppelganger, who is also her nightmare and her most vicious critic. And it is in her image, so it knows everything about her."

  • BOOK IT / GIRISH KARNAD'S BIKHRE BIMB - BROKEN IMAGES

  • WHERE: Esplanade Theatre Studio, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: Nov 22 and 23, 8pm

    ADMISSION: $30 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

The 70-minute show runs on Nov 22 and 23 at the Esplanade Theatre Studio. It will be performed in Hindi with English surtitles.

Its English title, Broken Images, is taken from T.S. Eliot's poem, The Wasteland.

The 60-year-old actress has had four decades of experience in TV and cinema.

In 2004, she set up the Ranga Shankara theatre in Bangalore, named after her late husband Shankar Nag, an actor and director in the Kannada movie industry. He died in 1990.

Incidentally, Bikhre Bimb, written by veteran Indian playwright Girish Karnad, was originally produced by Ranga Shankara in 2005.

Karnad directs the play with KM Chaitanya.

It has been produced in Kannada, Hindi and English, and has toured around and outside India, including in the United States.

This is the first time a Hindi version is being performed outside India.

Nag played Nayak for the Kannada and Hindi versions of the play, while another actress took on the role for the English version.

She says the play "hangs very gently on the issue of language". It will also delve into themes of marriage, the relationship between two sisters and "touch upon the idea of women coming into their own".

She says of Karnad: "He wrote this play for me. I did not act for seven years, when I was building Ranga Shankara."

"Now I've played this role more than 140 times."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2016, with the headline 'Exploring identity and language'. Print Edition | Subscribe