Plus With a mix of east and west the tale of Ravana unfolds

Byy Oshani Alwis
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The legendary tale of ‘Dasis Ravana’ (Ten-Headed Ravana) unfolded as the first ever Sinhala operatic ballet performed by a local university was staged at the Nelum Pokuna on January 5.

Thirty- five undergraduates of the University of Colombo put up a magnificent show in “ Ravana: the legend untold” (Ravana noki purawatha) unveiling the mythical narrative of the mighty King of Lanka, unearthing the history of 7500 years.

The script was written by veteran novelist Bhadraji Mahinda Jayathilaka based on his book, Sri Ravanna Puwatha.

Choreographer and music composer Thanuja Bandula and the students presented the story of Ravana with great flair, and from the first entrance of the operatic singers, singing the prosperity of ancient Sri Lanka under the reign of King Ravana along with dauntless royal soldiers, to the shocking moment Sita’s identity is revealed, the audience was spellbound.204A7365

Through a combination of operatic singing and western ballet, the students showcased their dancing and acting skills on stage. The vibrant vocal skills of the operatic singers were synchronised with the sound of traditional Yak Bera, violin and flute.

The gigantic set featured Ravana’s palace and the Sigiriya Lion’s paw at times changing into forest backdrops. Costumes were an amalgamation of east and west.

Kalanemi, Ravana’s maternal uncle was the narrator of the story. Maricha, the most faithful statesman of Ravana and Indrajit -Ravana’s son made their first appearance in Act one as the mighty Ravana approaches in the Dandu Monara as the soldiers sing his praises.

Queen Mandodari, Ravana’s wife and Indrajit engage in playing the “siw bala keliya” (game of six powers) signifying the birth of the strategy board game, chess. Ravana’s brothers Vibhishana and Kumbhakarna arrive and it is revealed that Ravana’s sister Surpanakha has fallen in love with Rama’s brother Lakshmana. The twist in the plot occurs when Surpanakha enters veiling her face- severely maimed by Lakshmana. Ravana reveals his plan to bring Sita to Lanka to persuade Lakshmana to apologize to Surpanakha.

The third act is in the Dandaka forest where Rama and Sita with Lakshmana live in exile. Hanuman, Rama’s faithful ally has a premonition of Sita being in grave danger and warns Rama. Maricha being a shape shifter disguises himself as a deer and misleads Rama and Lakshmana. Meanwhile Ravana hypnotises Sita and takes her to Lanka.

When Rama, Lakshmana and Hanuman’s army declares war to rescue Sita- Ravana refuses to fight as he questions “how am I suppose to kill people as I am a vegetarian and a healer?” He avoids the great battle taking place between Rama’s allies and Ravana’s allies.

In the final act Ravana reveals that Sita is the twin sister of Indrajit who was separated at birth. The prophecy at her birth predicted she would dishonour her father’s name one day. Sita was floated away in the sea in a basket and later adopted by king Janaka of Vedeha. Sita is shocked as the bitter truth of her life is revealed. Ravana blesses her for a happy life with Rama and takes his leave. Rama and Sita are reunited as Rama demands that she performs the agni pariksha (fire ordeal) to prove her chastity. Sita proves her purity plunging into the fire and emerges unharmed. Finally the duo returns to India with Lakshmana.

Bringing to the stage a different version to Valmiki’s Ramayana – which paints Ravana as a Rakshasa (demonic king) of Lanka, this production of “Ravana: the legend untold” showed him as a humanitarian ruler, a scholar who possessed ten skills and the great king of Lanka.

– From Sunday Times – Plus Section of Jan. 14, 2018
Pix by Sameera Weerasekera