A story-teller performing the Tamil theatre form Kattai Koothu, Bad Hindu us a solo devised performance created by Sunandha Raghunathan of Guduguduppukkari. The 70 minute long performance in English tells the story of Aravan that comes with a clever parallel of Aravan with Sunandha that unravels identity and raises urgent questions of who has a right to tell certain stories. Incidentally, Kattai Koothu is traditional Tamil theatre and includes singing, dancing and acting and these plays are usually 8 hour long detailing an episode from one of the Indian epics and have plenty valour, pathos and bawdy humour to entertain and enlighten you.
“Last year I moved to London to pursue my Masters in Theatre; it was the second time that London was to be my home (the first time was 15 years ago for my first Masters in English Literature). During this year, I had many starter conversations with people asking me where I come from and what I believe in and I found that everything I identified with and as, I was also in contention with and opposition to, and so when I had to develop a show for my final presentation in class, it was always going to be Bad Hindu because I wanted to dissect the constructed nature of identity and the performative aspect of identity,” says Sunandha. Incidentally, Bad Hindu is her attempt to blast open identity politics and intersectionality while juxtaposing what is a contemporary narrative with a mythological one. Looking back however, theatre was entirely an accident for Sunandha as it was when a friend was directing a play in 2005 that she got onstage and was hooked. “Given that I have only recently been trained, (MA in Text & Performance from RADA & Birkbeck College as a Charles Wallace scholar) I am keen now on honing my artistic voice and what I have to say about here and now.” Growing up in Kenya she admits the flawed, grey and amoral politics of Mahabharata always appealed to her.
Bad Hindu is an independent solo of 70 minutes that was inspired by Kattai Koothu, The Mahabharata, and most importantly the question of one’s identity. “Nevertheless, in order to find the right elements of the Koothu “Aravan Kalabali” (Aravan’s Sacrifice) and join it with my own story, there was a dramaturgical surgery that needed to happen. That involved working with Thilagavathi Palani a Kattai Koothu artist who helped me identify the songs that needed to be in the show. I traveled to India from the UK and worked with Thilaga in person and also over whatsapp and emails once I was back in London. Bad Hindu was originally presented as a 40 minute piece in my class in London,” says Sunandha. Her mentor in the UK was instrumental in helping her structure the show and conversations with him helped Sunandha identify the points at which her story would interrupt Aravan’s story. “The phenomenal response it received in my class spurred me to extend it to a 70 minute performance and opened in The Hampstead Theatre in London and received glowing 4-star review. As always, at the end of each show I have a talk-back. In every single show, something from the talk-back has inspired me to go back to the script and rework it in order to further clarify what I want to say. Simplify and simplify that should be every theatre maker’s mantra,” says Sunandha. However each time this show is staged, Sunandha get calls or comments about the title – Bad Hindu. “I tell them to come to show. It is a traditional form of theatre and tells the story of Aravan from The Mahabharata. Of course, my play is not propoganda for the right wing – I draw parallels to the Aravan of then and the Aravans of now – people sacrificed by their own for the sake of the greater good. If you like watching singing and dancing, then this is your show. If you think of our traditional arts as our living history since songs are sung in the same tune for centuries and dances are danced with the same steps, then you will love Bad Hindu,” says Sunandha.
- What: Guduguduppukkari presents Bad Hindu, Devised & Performed by Sunandha Raghunathan
- When: April 28 2019, 7:30 PM
- Where: The Courtyard, Shanti Nagar
- Tickets on bookmyshow, Ticket cost: Rs. 250
This story first appeared in Deccan Chronicle Bengaluru dated 26 April 2019 here: