Demure heroine emboldened

Singapore theatre troupe Avant Theatre stages Tamil play Parasu, retelling the story of warrior-sage Parasurama.
Singapore theatre troupe Avant Theatre stages Tamil play Parasu, retelling the story of warrior-sage Parasurama.PHOTO: ESPLANADE - THEATRES ON THE BAY

In the new Tamil play Parasu, the title refers to both the warrior-sage Parasurama and the axe he wielded against women and men alike.

The mythical warrior is considered the sixth manifestation or avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu and possibly immortal.

His story is punctuated by violent deeds, such as beheading his own mother at his father's command.

But in this play by local theatre troupe Avant Theatre, his anger is called into question by another mythical character Sita, wife of Rama - another avatar of Vishnu - and heroine of the Ramayana.

Director G. Selva, who is also the artistic director of Avant Theatre, says: "We've made Sita bolder here. I'm sure that tone of hers will shock audiences who are used to a more demure character."

Parasu is the latest in a line of plays from Avant Theatre that have retold the stories of Hindu mythological figures.

Niladri Kumar plays the traditional sitar as well as his reinvented electronic version of the classic instrument, the zitar.
Niladri Kumar plays the traditional sitar as well as his reinvented electronic version of the classic instrument, the zitar.  PHOTO: ESPLANADE – THEATRES ON THE BAY

Bhishma in 2011 explored the life of the celibate warrior who was respected by both warring factions in the Mahabharata.

Stree - The Voices Within in 2014 was inspired by another tale from the Mahabharata, in which the famed warrior Arjuna spent a year in hiding, pretending to be a female dancer.

Parasurama was also a mentor and teacher to figures from the Mahabharata - set generations after the Ramayana - passing his skills on to Arjuna's teacher Drona and Arjuna's great rival Karna.

The play Parasu, written by local writer Elavazhagan Murugan, presents Parasurama's many appearances in mythology and queries the cycles of anger and repentance he lives through.

Selva says: "Sita will be able to question Parasurama and say, 'Calm down. Why are you so angry?'

"He, too, will question his anger and ask, 'Why am I not making rational decisions?'

"But anger can also be productive if you know how to use it. At every point, we want the audience to think, 'Why is he doing this?'"


Other highlights

RAVAN CHHAYA - SHADOW PUPPETRY OF ORISSA

Indian group Ravan Chhaya Natya Sansada presents a traditional form of puppet theatre from Odisha state, which retells the Ramayana. Ravan Chhaya translates to "shadow of Ravan", the demon-king defeated by Rama at the end of the epic.

Where: Esplanade Forecourt Garden

When: Friday to Sunday, 7.45 and 8.45pm

ADMISSION: Free

NILADRI KUMAR - WHERE TRADITION MEETS INNOVATION

Indian string player Niladri Kumar plays the traditional sitar as well as his reinvented electronic version of the classic instrument, the zitar, in this concert. He is joined by Satyajit Talwalkar on the tabla or Indian drums, Agnelo Fernandes on the keyboard and Shikhar Naad Qureshi on percussion.

Where: Esplanade Concert Hall

When: Sunday, 7.30pm

Admission: $45

NADI - THE RIVER

This dance performance by acclaimed bharatanatyam choreographer Leela Samson's Spanda Dance Company is inspired by poetry written about rivers. The verses are in multiple languages, ranging from centuries-old poems in Tamil to contemporary meditations in Kannada by well-known writer Girish Karnad.

Where: Esplanade Theatre

When: Nov 24, 8pm

Admission: $45

GANGA - THE HEAVENLY PRINCESS

This family-friendly English production for children aged one to eight retells the legend of the sacred Ganges River, known as Ganga, who is also the daughter of the mountain king Himalaya.

Where: Esplanade Recital Studio

When: Nov 24 and 25, 11am and 2pm

Admission: $20 Info:

  • Admission for ages one and older; recommended for kids aged four to eight •All tickets from Esplanade Box Office and Sistic
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2018, with the headline 'Demure heroine emboldened'. Print Edition | Subscribe