The Dice of Desire

Group and dramatization: The Creative Arts

Director: Ramanjit Kaur, Vansh Bhardwaj



Director: Lopamudra Chatterjee

Dramatist: Shreya Ila Anasuya


Two all-women productions brought to our attention once again the discrimination faced by Indian womankind in epic literature and modern society. Both traversed well-trodden ground in contemporary theatre, therefore one must assess them from the perspective of originality rather than material.


The Creative Arts’ The Dice of Desire took about a dozen characters from the Mahabharata to present the motif of desire, not just sexual. They spanned the familiar stories of Amba, Gandhari, Kunti and Draupadi, to marginal figures like Chitrangada and such odd men out as Krishna and Iravan. A few seemed quite extraneous or tangential – for example Ahalya (from the Ramayana) and Mohini (Iravan’s wife who does not even get name-checked by Vyasa). By relying mainly on recent retellings from Tagore to Chitra Divakaruni, the collective writers unfairly neglected deep reading of the primary classical source. The performance, too, just over an hour’s duration, did not give scope for individual development or complexities.


However, directors Ramanjit Kaur and Vansh Bhardwaj scored very high, as usual, in visualizing the spectacle, aided by lighting maestro Daulat Vaid, while Tanmoy Bose provided appropriately supportive music. The earth-red design scheme, the sensory stimuli of props, and the choreographic patterns revealed Ramanjit’s hallmark touch. Chitrangada in Chhau surprised pleasantly. The twenty actresses stepping out of their costumes at the end came as a startling device of transparency.


The socio-artistic conditions of tawaif culture inspired Gul, a storytelling faction scripted by Shreya Ila Anasuya on the love of a celebrated 19th-century singer-dancer and her protegee. The similarities with Gauhar Jan’s career were not accidental. Three ladies split the role: Shreya herself as narrator, Vidhya Gopal as vocalist and Shinjita Roy as Kathak exponent, creating virtually a split-screen experience. The mellifluous singing of Mumbai-based Vidhya stole the show. But Gul’s profession demanded from the others greater sringara rasa (acknowledged in the promo as “locking eyes with each person in the audience”), especially more smiles from Shreya and facial abhinaya from Shinjita. Director Lopamudra Chatterjee’s decision to use live singing and accompaniment balanced things out, at a time when theatre resorts to soundtracks as the easy option.


(From The Times of India, 13 December 2019)