Great epics, contemporary twists

Marabu - The First Ripple
Marabu - The First RipplePHOTOS: ESPLANADE - THEATRES ON THE BAY, FOTEINI CHRISTOFILOPOULOU, CLETUS REBELLO INC
Amit Trivedi live in concert
Amit Trivedi live in concert
Inter_rupted
Inter_ruptedPHOTOS: ESPLANADE - THEATRES ON THE BAY, FOTEINI CHRISTOFILOPOULOU, CLETUS REBELLO INC
Swarhythm
Swarhythm
Ultimate Kurukshetra
Ultimate Kurukshetra

The 18th edition of Indian festival of the arts Kalaa Utsavam returns next month with a colourful line-up of music, theatre and dance. The festival, presented by the Esplanade, runs from Nov 15 to 24 and is sponsored by Singapore Press Holdings under the SPH Gift of Music series. Toh Wen Li shares five highlights

1 MARABU - THE FIRST RIPPLE

Dance and theatre come together in Marabu - The First Ripple, the first part of a trilogy by Bhaskar's Arts Academy.

The production is set during the height of the Srivijayan empire and traces the passage of the Indian community from India to the Malay peninsula.

Veteran artist Santha Bhaskar, 80, who is working with co-choreographer Ajith Bhaskar and theatre director G. Selva on this production, says this is the first time in a long while that Bhaskar's Arts Academy has combined theatre with dance.

"It is an experiment," she says, adding that it will prompt audiences to question who they are and where they come from.

The show features performers from Bhaskar's Arts Academy, Suvarna Fine Arts (Malaysia), Avant Theatre and Gamelan Singamurti.

WHERE: Esplanade Theatre Studio WHEN: Nov 15 and 16, 8pm; Nov 17, 3pm ADMISSION:$30 INFO: Performed in Tamil with English surtitles

2 AMIT TRIVEDI LIVE IN CONCERT

Award-winning composer Amit Trivedi will make his Singapore debut with songs such as Emotional Atya-char, from dark comedy Dev.D (2009); Sawarloon, from historical romance Lootera (2013); and Darya, from romcom Manmarziyaan (2018).

He has been hailed by some as the heir apparent to Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman.

  • BOOK IT /KALAA UTSAVAM

  • WHERE: Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: Nov 15 to 24

    ADMISSION: Free and ticketed programmes available

    INFO: For more information, go to esplanade.com/kalaautsavam or call 6348-5555

WHERE: Esplanade Theatre WHEN: Nov 23, 8pm ADMISSION: From $55

3 INTER_RUPTED

This contemporary work based on the Indian dance form of kathak explores notions of the human body.

"It marvels at the intricacy of the body, its fragility, its vulnerability and the fact that it is going to disintegrate as the body ages. And yet there is a kind of resilience, a renewal, that is fascinating," says dancer-choreographer Aditi Mangaldas, 59.

The show, whose title alludes to the idea that in life, "interruptions are constantly around the corner", features dancers (including Aditi) and three musicians.

WHERE: Esplanade Theatre WHEN: Nov 16, 8pm ADMISSION: $40

4 SWARHYTHM

Swarhythm Ensemble, known for its contemporary twist on traditional music, performs songs from its first album. The Singapore musicians play diverse instruments such as the sitar, bansuri, erhu and Spanish guitar.

WHERE: Esplanade Recital Studio WHEN: Nov 17, 7.30pm ADMISSION: $30

5 ULTIMATE KURUKSHETRA

India's great Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, is known for its heroes, poetic grandeur and the story of a dynastic struggle culminating in the battle of Kurukshetra.

"But how about the little guy - the small person for whom even a tiny action of a hero has catastrophic consequences?" asks Bangalore-based theatre practitioner Ram Ganesh Kamatham.

His comedic play, Ultimate Kurukshetra, offers an "ant's-eye view" of the epic from the perspectives of fictitious mythological characters such as a mahout, courtesan and warrior. This production by Actors Ensemble India Forum, which took Ram Ganesh some 14 years to stage, premiered in India last December.

The comedy delves quite seriously into the themes of the Mahabharata, he says, adding: "One of the central motifs in the Mahabharata is the idea of what's the right action. Faced with a choice, what do you do?"

WHERE: Esplanade Theatre Studio WHEN: Nov 23, 8pm and Nov 24, 3pm ADMISSION: $30 INFO: Performed in English. Recommended for ages 13 and above

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2019, with the headline 'Great epics, contemporary twists'. Print Edition | Subscribe