New Delhi : Adolescence in itself is a challenging phase of growing up, and when you are a boy stuck with an elephant head, life is bound to get tougher.
The mythological episode where little Ganesha, in the aftermath of his father Shiva chopping his head off, is left confused and unable to bear the weight of the substitute elephant head, forms the central plot of a play that was staged here last evening.
“Elephant in the Room”, directed and acted by Yuki Ellias is a quirky yet poignant interpretation of the popular mythological lore. The story gives voice to the angst that “Master Tusk”, the protagonist, goes through in his new too-big-for-his-body appendage.
Confused and bewildered, the young boy finds himself lost in a forest. “The story of Master Tusk is that of a young boy who is in search of his head. He is no ordinary boy and certainly you can’t be if you’ve gone through a beheading and lived the rest of your life with the head of an elephant.
“I was always intrigued how much Ganesha must have had to adjust to his changing form – from clay, to boy to part animal and then God,” says Ellias. More than the physical discomfort, it is Ganesha’s mental anguish that Ellias brings out beautifully on stage.
While Master Tusk is on the search for his original head, he encounters a wily couple – Makadi (spider) and Moork (poacher), who kidnap the boy, hoping for a big ticket ransom. However, the duo’s scheme goes awry following a prophecy by an eccentric old elephant, Wordsweight, who declares that Ganesha would never be able to get his original head back.
“I followed my own curiosity over this avataar of Ganesha, to present the animal side of the story. It had been brewing in my mind for four years, and was finally realised on stage,” she says. Scripted by Sneh Prabhu, the production that was made over a period of two and a half months, is a mix of humor, poetry and sensitivity.
Ellias plays seven different characters in her solo-show, and her performances are enhanced using funny accents, an uncanny body language and entertaining facial expressions. “Due to the strong script, I was able to play these seven different characters. We were writing a page on one hand, and simultaneously developing the characters, with their unique vocabulary and other nuances,” she says.
While the story is a tribute to the rich Indian mythology, it also touches upon other important issues like casteism, refugee crisis and environmental degradation. “There were many options of how the end of the story could have been but we didn’t opt for those because I didn’t want religious groups coming after me.
“Instead, I wanted to end on a hopeful note, so that we can love ourselves no matter how we are, without carrying any guilt,” says Ellias. The play was performed as part of the ongoing Mahindra Theatre Festival at Shri Ram Centre here.