Most of you, especially during your school days, have heard and learned many things about Lord Buddha. His eightfold path is one such practice that is taught in schools.
But, the Buddha’s lessons and stories about his lifestyle have mostly been limited to texts. In this context, the Nepal Academy of Music and Drama has come up with a play, titled Gachhami, currently being staged at Kunja Theatre, Thapagaun, Kathmandu.
The Gachhami play looks honest in its effort to make the modern generation aware of Buddha’s teachings through theatrical art. However, there are several glitches in its presentation and the effort looks immature and unprofessional.
As the Gachhami play begins, on the stage are two siblings played by Subash Timalsina and Aliza Tumbape. They abruptly wake up at 2 am. Later, it is learnt that they slept during their research on Lord Buddha and both are under pressure to complete their joint college assignment.
The brother asks the sister about the progress of the research. And, she starts telling him the story of Lord Buddha. As she continues telling the story, the scene changes from modern times to ancient times.
All of a sudden, a group of characters enters the stage in traditional costumes. They create the situation of the time when the Buddha took his birth in the Lumbini garden. Thus begins the Gachhami play.
Then, it switches between the past and the present–the Buddha’s time and the siblings’ time–many times.
The sister at first describes a specific moment or scene from the past then the other characters come onto the stage and perform the described scenes.
Such a regular shift in the Gachhami play saves the audience from boredom and keeps them active and entertained.
While the scenes of the play change frequently, the setting does not change at all. The entire play is being performed on a wooden floor and there are just two chairs for two characters on the floor. Besides them, the audience can see three long clothes hanging from the top as a backdrop.
The same setting is manoeuvred in such a way that it works as a room of the siblings, a Lumbini garden, the king’s palace and others.
The use of smoke on the stage has made the Gachhami play vibrant, creating a spiritual ambience. Budham Sharanam Gachhami chants have added life to the play.
The play vividly shows the sacrifice of Buddha. Even after being the son of the king, he left all the luxuries and went in search of liberation and peace. Buddha’s findings about what makes people suffer and how to overcome them have been well represented in the play.
Thousands of books have been written about the Buddha. Those books have discussed the diverse sides of Buddha. This one-hour-long play is also written from the scripts of various books, say the makers.
The Gachhami play, directed by Sunil Pokharel, can significantly enlighten those who want to know the basics about Buddha and Buddhism.
However, the presentation and stage management does not look impressive. In one of the recent shows, the electricity went off for around 10 minutes. The actors stood still until the power was back. This technical glitch broke the audience’s concentration on the play. But, the way how those actors caught the rhythm of the play after the light was turned on was impressive to watch. The electricity cut-off gave the actors an opportunity to show unexpected skills.
Sunisha Bajgain who acted as Buddha’s wife Yasodhara steals the show with her expressions and dialogue delivery. But, the selection of the cast in the Gachhami plays seems problematic. Jyoti Khadka who acted as Buddha’s stepmother looks way younger than the Buddha himself.