Saturday, February 5, 2011

A little bit of Java and a little bit of Ghatotkacha

Now don't even begin to think that I got busy last weekend writing some Java code if that's what you inferred from the title of my post :-) I was actually refering to some real authentic Javanese culture from Indonesia called Wayang theatre and a refresher on the life of a very important mythological character from the Mahabharata called Ghatotkacha. I did not have to travel to Indonesia or go to India to have this unique and very high quality experience but stay right here in the little town of Wiesloch.

Professor Dr. Peter Schneider and his wife Christina run a theatre in Wiesloch called the Marionetten theater. So this month they put up a  shawdow puppet performance called Wyang Kulit and the play was around the life of Ghatotkacha the son of Bheema who was the strongest of the Pandavas. The Wayang Kulit is a flat puppet with a very intricate design made with buffalo leather. They are manipulated behind a white screen with a back light, so that the audience see them as a shadow and hence the name shadow puppets.

Back in Java I understand that these plays last for the whole night, very similar to the Yakshagana performances back in India. But this show was customized to the German audience so it lasted for 2 hours which was also perfect by my standards. It was my first exposure to Wyang Kulit and I figured out as we went that to signal the beginning or the end of the performance or even a scene change the Dalang or the Puppeteer Mr. Schneider would use a puppet in the shape of a mountain called Gunungan. The evil characters were always on the right side of the screen and the good characters were on the left side of the screen.

I loved the scene where Ghatotkacha very bluntly proposes to his lady love Maurvi asking her to marry him. Dr. Schneider modulated his voice and spoke the parts for all the characters brilliantly. The shyness of a lover, the anger of a hero, the evil wickedness of a villian, the pain of a mother in parting with her son all orchestrated in perfect harmony and brought alive through the puppets and through the puppeteer's voice.

Michael Zimmermann who played the guitar was a perfect substitute for the traditional Gamelan orchestra who normally accompanies the Dalang in traditional Wayang.

At the end of the performance it was nice to see the puppets all laid out on the stage with individual name tags all set for the performance next evening.

A very exhilirating experience indeed and like I said that does not always have to be through Java programming and without having to leave the confines of your friendly neighbourhood theater!!

1 comment:

  1. Wow!! Nice to know about this theater in Wiesloch. Liked all those puppets and arranged in a row for the next show.