When I meet Salil and Roy together for an interview and ask them to tell me about one another there was an instant sense of joviality in the air.
The body of Arjuna and the voice of Arjuna have only met a month at most prior to this interview yet between them there is a languid ease of a long forged friendship. So did the entire cast, and within a month they have come to be a family,” says Deborah. During rehearsal they share snacks and internal jokes. They have indeed become a family. Without dialogues and a comprehensive storyline Arjuna’s Dilemma is anything but a traditional play. “It is a dream”, says Salil, “this play’s inception was a beautiful dream imagined by Douglas” and to bring together two vastly different cultures, the eastern and the western, and fuse them to create a 70 minutes long spectacle is indeed nothing short of a grand dream.
This beautiful dream has brought the music, the theatre and, the dances of the two worlds together but in its most beautiful sense it has achieved to bring two cultures and its people under a shared stage. It is a rare opportunity, an inspiration and a learning experience for both the cultures. It is a cultural exchange of heritage and manners that leaves each single member awed.
The Nepali crew was in awe of the Opera voice when they first got introduced. Roy describes Opera Singing as strange for first time listeners; “it is stylized,magnified to extreme and has extra resonance, the power and the possibilities to explode the human voice in ineffable ways” He believes no instrument to be more captivating and (stirring/poignant) than the human voice and that with it words grow into an extra dimension. Salil, in his own words, couldn’t agree more: “His voice made me cry. When he appeared and sang it changed my perception of the text. I had a different understanding of Geeta. I understood nuances of the text at a human level. It was an emotional moment. His voice was spiritual. I could travel beyond the text through the power of the human voice, of his voice.”
For Aruna, the female ensemble, hearing Annalisa’s voice helped her clear her doubts about being able to deliver in a play where she wasn’t the one speaking. “It is an exciting uncharted territory and when Annalisa sang I travelled through her voice, it felt as if I myself was speaking” However for her the most crucial experience was the experience of warmth and humility. “They never made us feel out of place. Even after being such prominent figures they have so much humility. They guide us in each step. The experience is truly humbling.”
The play, like any form of art, has already transcended boundaries. Despite being based on a religious text it takes the Geeta to a minimalist level where the essence of humans emotions are unravelled; pain, suffering, will; and it is through these that the two cultures connect.
At the end of our conversation after hearing all good things, I ask if they ever had any difficulty working together. In response both Roy and Salil laugh heartily. Slyly Salil responds, “In Nepali I will backbite so that he doesn’t understand” and to that they laugh again. It is an evidently comfortable connection. It is the lovely bond of people passionate about the same things brought together in Nepal by One World Theatre.