Ever since I stepped out of India, I have been terrified of all that I don’t know. Should I express an opinion on anything – be it film, theatre, music, dance, television or even street culture – when I haven’t had a lifelong engagement with them? On so many occasions, I have abandoned blogs half-way, conscious that I don’t have enough background on the subject.
But now I find that the esteemed London reviewers don’t share the same diffidence when it comes to opining confidently on Indian culture.
Last week, I attended the dance performance by Akram Khan and raved about my experience on this blog. Most London reviewers did the same too, in their respective columns, with one crucial difference: most got the storyline hopelessly and hilariously mixed-up.
As the leaflet given to us during the show made clear, the performance was about the relationship between Gandhari and Duryodhana, the mother-son duo from the Hindu epic Mahabharata. In the third, fourth and fifth act, Akram Khan plays Duryodhana and Yoshie Sunahata, the Japanese dancer/drummer/singer, plays his blindfolded mother Queen Gandhari. The relationship is made still more evident from the fact that at one point, Khan is dancing around Sunahata, who stands at the centre of the stage blindfolded with a stick, with the vocals “Maa Sun (mother listen)” echoing through the hall.
And yet, Times online married the two-off, by claiming that Khan played the king, presumably Dhritrashtra, and Sunahata the Queen. Guardian did the same, making the further claim, that the dance was a “portrait of a marriage”. Telegraph claimed that Khan plays the last surviving Kaurava son Duryodhana, and Sunahata the blind king, thereby doing away with Gandhari in a single swoop. The theatre newspaper Stage was a bit cleverer, and refused to commit itself to who was who in the play, focussing instead on the dance moves.
The confident tone assumed by most reviewers, especially Judith Mackrell of Guardian, had me simultaneously despairing and doubling up with laughter. And what about the dishonesty? After all, if they didn’t get the plot, it says something of the performance as well. If the show couldn’t get through to the reviewers, what are the chances of the rest of the audience following the story?
Only Times Online was honest enough to admit that he found the performance a tad confusing.That would have been enough for me to become a follower of Times Online reviews if I hadn't discovered yesterday, that the website has been claiming all over the internet that the Bollywood movie Teen Patti (or three cards in Hindi) refers to three husbands.