Hiunko Prithvi Yatra: Global climate concerns get dramatic manifestation at Kathmandu theatre

The curtain opens. There is a picture of a mountain above the stage and below that, everything is covered up with white-coloured clothes. The clothes start moving like a wave of water. Three characters, who are actually personifications of rivers, come out of the white clothes and narrate their journey as a river one by one.

“My rest ends here in a dam; I am beginning my journey now. First, I will melt, then flow again to take a new course,” says one of the rivers.

This is the beginning of the play Hiunko Prithvi Yatra (the snow’s journey on the earth) being performed at Shilpee Theatre. The drama, written and directed by Amjad Prawej and Ghimire Yubaraj, brings on state global climate concerns to sensitise theatre lovers in Kathmandu. This is quite special as such issues are rarely featured in performing arts here.

Local concerns over global issues

In particular, the play deals with the significance of rivers and water in living beings.  Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale.
In particular, the play deals with the significance of rivers and water in living beings.  Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale.

Imagine you are thirsty but you are deprived of water. There is not a single drop of water inside your house and all the water resources near you are also dried up. Doesn’t that sound scary?

In Hiunko Prithvi Yatra, a similar scenario is happening on the stage.

A father character, acted by Jhakendra BC, is thirsty and he does not find any water to drink. When he asks about the water, his daughter replies that the tubewell in their Terai village has dried up and there is no water in the house.   

Meanwhile, everyone in the village is desperately waiting for rainfall. The protagonist feels that people will die of starvation and water scarcity. And, everybody’s life in the village is in crisis.

While the characters are talking about the water crisis, a thunderstorm intervenes. They hope for rainfall and even bring out the utensils to fill the rainwater. But, their hope turns into disappointment as it does not rain.  

This is how Hiunko Prithvi Yatra is directly connected to climate change and its effect on human life. It is an interesting theme as the theatres in Kathmandu are mostly occupied with other socio-political themes The play, hence, has also the potential to make people realise the importance of conserving water resources. 

In particular, the play deals with the significance of rivers and water in living beings.  The play shows how hard life has been due to the scarcity of water, especially for those who rely upon the fishery for a living. 

Strong sense of presentation 

The music and light both have given life to the play.  Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale.
The music and light both have given life to Hiunko Prithvi Yatra play. 
Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale

Along with the theme, another thing that you must praise about Hiunko Prithvi Yatra is its presentation. For example, during a scene, the characters artistically use flashlights to bring fireflies onto the stage. 

Then, the use of props, set design, and the personification of rivers, fish, and elephants among others make the play interesting and show the creative aspect of the makers. The play presents many more fascinating aspects, which will be a spoiler if mentioned here.

The plot of Hiunko Prithvi Yatra is set in Nepal’s southern plains where the characters use the Tharu dialect. Their accent is up to the mark and does not sound odd or unpleasant.  

Another thing that has made the play beautiful and vibrant is its live music performed by Smarika Phuyal, Anup Timalsina and director Prawej himself. The play features different songs and all of them are originally written and composed.

All of those songs are perfectly accompanied by guitar, ukulele, harmonica, cajon, shaker and dholak. All the songs and tunes are there to make every activity of Hiunko Prithvi Yatra more meaningful and relevant.  

Nirmal Rawal on light has done a marvellous job. The light effects are handled aptly striking the right feeling for every scene. They are used in an accurate time to picturise subjects like death, river flow, thunderstorm and others. 

The music and light both have given life to the play. 

Key questions for humanity

What happens at the end of the play is sad, unexpected and unusual. But, it is also powerful as it vividly reflects the disgraceful practice in human society. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale.
What happens at the end of the play is sad, unexpected and unusual. But, it is also powerful as it vividly reflects the disgraceful practice in human society. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale.

Meanwhile, Hiunko Prithvi Yatra not only tells the story about a river but also portrays the feeling of the river. The personified river tells how the dams have impeded it to flow freely. It is also concerned about the dryness of the earth. 

What happens at the end of the play is sad, unexpected and unusual. But, it is also powerful as it vividly reflects the disgraceful practice in human society. Moreover, it also poses questions on development and politics that are directly or indirectly indifferent to rivers, climate change and other environmental matters. These are key questions for humanity to address.

Hiunko Prithvi Yatra will run through July 31 at 5:30 pm every day except Tuesdays at Shilpee Theatre, Battisputali. There will be an additional show on Saturdays at 1:00 pm.

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