On a humid July evening, The Goethe-Institut Max Mueller Bhavan was filled with excited chatter and rickety chairs. It was time for Bengaluru’s theatre scene to get an offbeat twist with “The Abhimanyu Project”. On the 22nd July, enthusiasts gathered inside the small, brightly lit hall to view this modern take of the Hindu myth of Abhimanyu.
Presented by Theatre Lab (Youth), the actors ranged from 13 to 18 years of age. According to Kirtana Kumar, the co-director and writer of the play, the script had been conceptualized by the young people she was working with. “Konarak Reddy wanted to develop something based on the myth of Abhimanyu and came up with the hacker angle. The kids were so excited, since they could relate to it. Their life is completely about the internet and with games like Blue Whale; they had a lot of ideas. Much of the dialogue has been written by them.”
Reddy is co-writer and musician to the adaptation. Offstage, he plays live; his soothing beats set the tone for the actors. As the lights were dimmed, a critical management problem arose. Most of the audience could not see the actors on stage and the sight of necks straining abounded in the room. “Forget this” a woman muttered to her awkwardly perched companion, “I’m going to stand at the back.” Rather than deterring the spectators, lone shadows glued themselves to the wall, their avid gazes ready for Act One.
Abhimanyu or A.B is a young Indian hacker who has frequent dreams of the myth of Abhimanyu. One day, he is approached by three ‘suits’ who pay him to create fake identities in order to overcome the recurring restrictions of immigration. However, when he is denied access to the Asiatic belt, he comes across Deaf Girl Devi, a coder. With their faithful friends, they discover something terrifying.
Although an ambitious concept, the tale melts together, complemented perfectly by the thrumming of Reddy’s beats. In one scene, the actors blindfold themselves, portraying Gandhari from the Mahabharata. In a haunting chorus, their voices rise in crescendo as they curse Krishna for the havoc he has wreaked. The tale turns to the current political climate, bringing forth a larger message of unity despite world leaders seeking to divide countries on boundaries of hatred.
“I enjoyed the music and the concept was interesting” said Theresa Chinnappa, a silver-haired theatre aficionado “But I felt that the plot was chaotic at times, the sequence was hard to follow. In that aspect it could be improved, but I’m glad that young people have a space to express themselves creatively.”
The play wrapped up with the actors taking a bow to thunderous applause. Unfortunately, many of the performers were heading away to college in the coming months, but a beaming Kirtana informed the crowd that “maybe there will be one more show.”
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