Where time stood still!
- Veena Basavarajaiah, Bangalore
e-mail: veenabasavarajaiah@gmail.com
Photos: Sankar Venkateshwaran

July 13, 2011

A monstrous heap of old clothes and junk sleeps on stage right with a broken bicycle as its crown.  A square platform in the centre houses a water station (neerina niluthana) and the sound of the running tap stampedes into the silence. On a narrow footpath that emerges from the back-wing stands the anchored silhouette of a girl holding a basket. Nothing changes for the next few minutes and miraculously the girl is seen rooted a few feet away from where she started. She stops to look back, to trace her journey that began a few silent years ago and unhurriedly eyes the water. With calculated breath, she steps towards the tap, kneels down to take a rouge mug out of her basket to fill it and gulps it down her throat hectically.

She resumes back to her sluggish self while two back-packers are seen taking the same path as hers. She walks to settle herself on the mass of clothes and scans the unkempt looking travelers who assume a plodding pace with the same longing to quench their thirst. While their lips meet unexpectedly trying to drink water directly from the tap, a mere moment in reality seemed to stretch endlessly under her surveillance. The two strangers depart and as they leave, their shadows leave first, followed by their bodies and then the light.

Nameless visitors continue to transform the space into an integral part of their personal narratives leaving the audience to imagine their past and future. Incidents of an old lady taking her last breath, men taking away her corpse, lovers romancing,  a soldier brushing his teeth , a man dressed in bathrobe taking a dip, an eccentric woman wishing to fly away with an open umbrella are all done with a deliberate down-tempo. The skin deep emotion evaporates during the slow-moving actions leaving behind a visceral residue.

The attention zooms to track every actor’s movements, magnifying every step, the tension in the muscles, the taut spine, the held neck, the placed weight and the breath. Time comes a full circle when the silhouette of the girl with a basket who commenced the piece repeats her journey. She dissolves into darkness and the viewer is left with the eternal sound trickling down the tap.

A Kannada adaption of Japanese dramaturg Ota Shogo's ‘The Water Station’ was presented by Ninasam Thirugaata, the renowned theatre company from Heggodu, Karnataka. The performance was staged on the 3rd and 4th of May 2011 at Ranga Shankara, Bangalore. Director Sankar Venkateshwaran’s training in four major Asian traditional theatre forms including Noh, Koodiyattam, Beijing opera and Wayang Wong brings uniqueness to the treatment of the entire movement performance.

For a hare-paced city dweller, this tortoise piece of work that can easily be represented in 20 minutes is stretched to a good two hours challenging the audience's attention and perception. In today’s world where no one has the time to stop and smell the roses, director Venkateswaran slows down life for us to take time to appreciate its beauty.

Ninasam a cultural organisation started in 1980, offers a 10-month long diploma course to about 20 students every year. Some of the alumni of this institute join Ninasam's rural theatre repertory troupe, Tirugata - a self sustaining group that has travelled extensively across the country. Some of the best of Kannada theatre artistes hail from Ninasam.

Veena Basavarajaiah is a Bangalore based solo dancer and choreographer who is trained in Bharatanatyam, Kalaripayattu, Ballet and Contemporary dance. She has worked with Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company, Angika Dance Company, Attakkalari, Kalari Academy, Gati Forum, Nritarutya, Natyantharanga & Yana Lewis Dance Co. She has performed on various platforms across India, UK and Europe. She is the recipient of Special Mention Young Achievers Award in 2007 and also a paneled artist of the Indian council for Cultural relations.