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Woot, Woot Double Digits to Nataka Chaitra with 'Jasma Odan'
- Poornima Ramaprasad
Photos: Ravi Shekar Photography

February 20, 2020

Nataka Chaitra, a passionate Kannada theater group in San Francisco Bay Area which was formed in 2010 with likeminded amateur drama enthusiasts, has now become a much sought after elite group that hosts a theater weekend every year. As part of the 10th anniversary celebration, this year, for their 8th season, they hosted the doyen of Kannada theater, Dr. B. Jayashree. She directed two houseful shows of the Gujarati folklore 'Jasma Odan' on February 8th and 9th at the Mission City Center for Performing Arts in Santa Clara. The play is written by Shantha Gandhi and translated to Kannada by Late Vaishali Kasaravalli. It was in the Bhavai style and was enacted by locally auditioned artists.

The narrative begins with Lord Indra summoning the apsaras and giving them the task of distracting the meditation of a certain sage on earth. When the apsaras are doing their task, the sage is charmed by one of them and tries to pursue her. When she refuses his advances, he curses her to be born in the nomad community. The scene changes to the nomadic tribe where Balla and his wife are working in the construction site of the well in Patan and are looking for a good alliance for their beautiful daughter Jasma. They meet another nomadic family and arrange Jasma's marriage with their son. Jasma has lost her heart to the young man before seeing him, but on the wedding day they find out that he is ugly and limps. Jasma insists on marrying him and so she does and goes off with him. She is known to be a very strong woman, loyal to her husband and helping him in his work. One day, the king's aide chances upon her and fills the king's mind with her beauty and tells him to make her his. The king is enthralled by her beauty and tries his ways to woo her, saying she would be the queen if she marries him. When Jasma does not agree, he sends his army to kill the men of the nomad tribe. Heartbroken Jasma commits sati to save her honor and to not give in to the king's vicious desires. Being a celestial nymph in her previous birth, she, along with her tribe, is brought back to life in the end of the play, making it a happy one.

The play was a musical in the Bhavai style of drama. Bhavai emphasizes on simple story lines, exaggerated physical movements to convey the action and uses music and dance to provide comic relief or to intensify the situation. Two sutradhars took roles in the scenes as needed and helped in the progression of the story, which is a very useful tool described even in the Natyashastra.

Direction by B. Jayashree took the cake. Music by Shlaghya Vasista and party was lovely and dance enactment by the cast was simple and elegant. Lighting was neat, costumes were colorful and stage was utilized to the fullest. A picturesque souvenir for the 10th anniversary carrying interesting articles on local theater scene was released and Dr. Jayashree mingled with the audience in the lobby after the play taking selfies and chatting away. Thanks to Sharmila Vidyadhara and the Nataka Chaitra team for bringing quality productions and theater celebrities to the San Francisco Bay Area's art aficionado Kannada community.

Poornima Ramaprasad reviews Indian dance and drama events in the San Francisco Bay Area from time to time.

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