Critiquing a show till the curtain comes down on the grand finale is a personal
ethic. If the show is long, one tends to pop a chewing gum in the mouth - to ward
off hunger or boredom as the situation demands. Watching this engrossing quasi-Yakshagana,
I not only forgot the customary chewing gum, but also vowed not to let flesh demands
interfere with matters of spirit, a resolve greatly reinforced by Surabhi (special
effects) Atmans passing from one body to another. A ray (in transit) must have
entered my earthly body too, because neither hunger pangs nor boredom were felt
throughout. If Vivekananda could stay for three days without food, couldn't I
for three hours?
To do justice to the Yakshagana style, the Sutradharas opened the play by singing (slightly off key) the story of Vivekananda, cleverly interspersing it with bits of dialogue on the woes of unfunded associations like theirs, and a Shivatandavam to tell us that Vivekananda was an aspect of Lord Shiva etc. Written and very effectively directed by Eeranki Seetaramiah, the play had Tangirala Raghava Sarma as Vivekananda and Josyulu as Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who lived their parts, creating an atmosphere of spiritual power all over - so much so that a group of youngsters (who must have just walked in) were heard commenting, "We couldn't have had this experience in a movie…"
Sure, a live show is a live show. The scenes where Vivekananda goes through personal turmoil - where he leads the youth, the Chicago address and when his Guru transmits power into his forehead through the toe - were all well conceived, but lacked that final polishing. Yet, it was an eye opener when we were told that three of the main cast have given up cushy jobs in HMT only to give more time to this prime interest of their lives. Dedication was apparent, especially when Seetaramiah went on announcing the names, unmindful of the kudos bestowed on him by all concerned.
G Satyavathi, social activist and a strong admirer of Swami Vivekananda, was invited to the stage to honor the team. She surprised everyone by touching the feet of Raghava Sarma; such was her adoration of the spiritualist! She spoke with great knowledge, and feeling, of Swamiji's ideals, and said that the young need self-reliance, not the fashionable ways of the West.
Yes Ma'am - I do agree - after all, I did forget the (very American) chewing gum, didn't I?