Mahabharata – Nitin Sawhney and Stephen Clark

This is what Indians would call a true tamashaa – an extravagant spectacle of music, dance and theatre.  The production tells the main story of the Mahabharata through a series of visual, audio, and physical flourishes: billowing silks of Rajasthani-turban colours, a script which intersperses English and Hindi with Sanskrit chanting, and a veritable jugalbandi of dance and music drawn from various Western and Indian traditions.  Nitin Sawhney, a British Asian musician and DJ, famous for his fusion music composed the score for this, which used a full-blown orchestra to produce operatic drama with a distinct oriental flavour.

The show had a UK tour last year and wowed the critics with its aesthetic impact, but failed to impress in other aspects.  Many complained of a Lloyd-Webber feel to it, perhaps not entirely unjustifiably.  For reviews see: The Times http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/stage/theatre/article1710006.ece

and the Guardian:

http://arts.guardian.co.uk/theatre/dance/reviews/story/0,,2069135,00.html#article_continue

I saw it at Sadlers Wells and although I enjoyed it hugely (except for a rather crude representation of the 11th Book of the Bhagavad Gita), it was perhaps a little over the top for the more staid English members of the audience.  Certainly not for the purists.

I very much hope it will be performed again, perhaps on a more global tour.  I’m quite sure it would be sensationally popular in India.

 

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