A collection of tales about the sixth avatar of Lord Vishnu

In Hindu mythology, the warrior sage Parasu is best known for being the sixth avatar of the god Lord Vishnu, maintainer of balance in the universe. Blessed with immense power and war sense when visited by the god Shiva one day, Parasu is simultaneously cursed with a seemingly unending anger that both feeds his strength and clouds his judgment.

In Avant Theatre’s theatrical adaptation of these tales, Parasu: The Story of an Ultimate Warrior plays these tales straight, keeping things traditional as we witness how Parasu comes to power and the various mentees and disciples he takes on in his life. Directed by G Selva and written by Dr Elavazhagan Murugan, these are primarily told in a series of dramatized recounts from Parasu himself upon meeting a mysterious young boy while mediating in the woods.

Most of the tales in, Parasu feels as poignant as the tales of the Norse or Greek gods, often ending in some kind of violence or immensely difficult decision on Parasu’s part while depicting epic stories of princes and princesses caught in giant wars straight from the Mahabharatha. As a familiar character in Hindu mythology, these stories are familiar ones, from the tales of Rama to Krishna, to the controversial Bhishma (who Parasu engages in battle, only to drop his bow at the behest of Lord Shiva who intervenes).

The power of a classic story and good storytelling is on display as members of the audience seemed enraptured at various points throughout the play, even cheering and applauding at the end of certain segments (Amba’s enraged monologue vowing vengeance at the end of the tale of Bhishma in particular, is a rousing one, adding some much needed feminist undertones to the otherwise patriarchal legends). Musicians S R Arun Kumar and Viknash provide lush live music in each scene, with Alberta Wileo’s lighting illuminating them all.

The set itself is rather detailed – with long vines and big leaves hanging from the ceiling and forming a verdant frame, one can imagine the action taking place in an actual forest, while midway through, a ‘pond’ filled with lily pads and other vegetation even gives audience members a treat by becoming an actual water spouting fountain to aid in the depiction of a royal palace scene.

While the adult cast is skilled at bringing out the majesty and heroism of their characters, it is energetic child actor Tharun Dayal who manages to steal the show each time he appears onstage, providing much needed comic relief in between segments as he teases and makes trouble for Parasu, who, played by Selvagananthan S/O Muthuram, makes a strong case for a troubled hero – powerful, yet constantly second guessing himself and lamenting his uncontrollable rage.

Parasu: The Story of an Ultimate Warrior ultimately inspires wonder in its audiences, yet also reminds us that not all gods and legends are infallible, each living with their own individual struggles. As the mysterious child reveals his true identity by the end of the performance, complete with epic lighting, sound and ethereal voice, one thinks of how the tale of Parasu is but a small fraction of the massive canon of Hindu mythology. We realise that gods come and go, replacing and being replaced through the ages, and it is these stories that live on in being told over and over again.

Performance attended 17/11/18 (3pm)

Parasu: The Story of an Ultimate Warrior played as part of Kalaa Utsavam 2018, and took place from 16th – 17th November 2018 at the Esplanade heatre Studio. For the full list of programmes and tickets, visit the Esplanade website here

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