THE HINDU LIT FOR LIFE in Chennai will see discussions, seminars, workshops and performances all with one common overarching theme: books and words. The Hindu Lit for Life 2015 takes place on January 16, 17 & 18, in Chennai. The fest ends with:
Lotus Leaves, Water Words: A Reading Performance
Text, Design and Direction: Prasanna Ramaswamy
As I always work with texts from varied sources to layout and form out the multiple narratives I want to use the opportunity of the festival platform to explore the canvas of word even more freely. Lit for Life 2013 saw us exploring the flora and fauna from the Tamil landscapes through its literature. In our presentation, we are primarily speaking about water and the other elements in a reference framework.
Last year I had worked with the flow of the river Kaveri as a recurrent motif through Silappadikaram to Azhwar poetry to Sayavanam. This year, the work places water in the centre, so naturally the flow of water becomes the motif, both to celebrate it and also look at its sluggishness caused by ecological violation and worry about it. Through the placement of different melodies and weaving the movements from the hand gestures and body lingo, the design is worked towards creating an evocation and a parallel experience of the spoken word.
The performance begins with the statement on the awareness of the elements through a conversation between Apollonius and Iarchas from the Book 3 of Philastratus, goes on to evoke the beauty and power of water from the community text Rig Veda, celebration of it in performing tradition aka dance, with a composition from the 18th century, leaps on to Cheran Rudramurthy's 'Irangal Paa' (a poet whose word I continuously have been working) wherein he works on autumn as a season as well as a motif and speaks about the ecological violation through mindless avarice of industrialisation and how it affects the water bodies. The actors wonder about the political will and quote Purananuru verse and the Prajapathi-Prakruti verse. The reading of the extraordinarily black humour laced yet unfortunately true ringing story (excerpts) of Kashinath Singh's Kaun Thagua Nagariya Lutal Ho (Who is the thug looting the city) then progresses to state the political will and political policy which is responsible for the water table degradation and how the rich becomes richer and the marginalised get even more marginalized. Denied the natural resource, which nature offers without discrimination through a text by P Sainath whose writing is a great inspiration for me, goes on to reflect on a gesture and verse about the Earth mother through a verse from Bhu Suktham...after all this as artists how we recover and continue to speak of our life, through whose else but Bharathi's words, which is followed by reflections through the words of Rilke, Ackermann, a verse from the native American Song of the Stars followed by John F Kennedy's reflection of the Earth as a space commonly inhabited by everyone...
When I started putting the texts together for this work, one of the first texts that surfaced in my memory was the recitation of Rig Veda and Bhu Suktham which propitiates the elements of nature and Earth respectively...then I stopped in my tracks and said, recovery is only through reclamation.
Text Sources: Muranchiyur Mudinaganar (Purananuru), Philastratus, Cheran, Kashinath Singh, Diane Ackerman, Rainer Maria Rilke, P Sainath, Clay Moldenhauer, Thanjai Nalvar, John F Kennedy, Prasanna Ramaswamy
Community Texts: Rig Veda, Algonquin Song of the Stars
Participants: P C Ramakrishna, Anita Ratnam, R Rohini, Nellai Manikandan, Niran Vicktor Benjamin, Sushila Ravindranath, Anandh Kumar, Revathy Kumar
- Prabha Sridevan who helped in clarifying the Sanskrit pronunciation of the Rig Veda verses
- Pradeep Chakravarthy who helped in clarifying the pronunciation of Bhu Suktham and also translating the essence of it
- Sita who looked at Bhagavatham for me though I couldn't use that text finally.
Let's keep talking!
- The Hindu, Jan 24, 2015
Forty-four sessions. Ninety-four panelists from six countries. Workshops. Performances. Capturing the moods and flavours of the fifth edition of the The Hindu Lit For Life in Chennai.
Photo courtesy: R. Ragu, The Hindu
Lotus Leaves, Water Words: A Reading Performance, directed by Prasanna Ramaswamy, elegantly and movingly traced the 2000-year-old story of water, with texts and passages in three languages, and included several forms of story-telling (dance, drama, poetry, prose, song and satire). The play was staged on a near-empty space, and the only props, besides nine plastic chairs and two umbrellas, were the actors' voices, their hands, and fluid movements; exquisite lighting and music (guitar and drums) helped bring to life the ecstasies and the agonies of water — when it pours in rain, and when it's exhausted by exploitation. Fiery in parts and fun in others, the play was ably performed by P.C. Ramakrishna, Anita Ratnam, R. Rohini, Sushila Ravindranath, Nellai Manikandan, Niran Vicktor Benjhamin, Anandh Kumar and Revathy Kumar - and a cameo appearance by Nirmala Lakshman. It was a beautiful finale to the three-day festival.
A leaf out of our lives
- Elizabeth Mathew, The Hindu, January 19, 2015