Avega ~ The Passion (2012)

The Passion explores the characters of three women from the Indian epic Ramayana, as archetypal figures. Set in fantasy environments, fateful incidents from the epic are played out on a spectacular stage  with fog machines, elaborate costuming and lighting to create powerful atmospheres.  The artist plays with various genres of image-making in her works, resulting in richly layered hybrids with multiple references. Many of the works in the exhibition refer to theatre stills from the early 20th century, while others use early cinema as their models. The work is in three parts and consists of two sets of photographs and two videos: Intrigue (Kaikeyi): The stepmother of the hero Prince Rama, who intrigues to banish hlm to the forest Seduction (Surpanakha): The demoness who tries to seduce him in the forest and whose nose is cut off Abduction (Sita): the wife of prince Rama who is abducted by the demon Ravana in the forest.

Concept, production design, direction: Pushpamala N
Photography: Clay Kelton
Backdrop painting: G Mahesh, Pushpamala N
Cast: Pushpamala N, Sudhindra Seshadri, Shreelata Rao  Seshadri, Suresh Jayaram, Raam Kumar
Video editing at Riverbank Studios Delhi
Title card design: Gopika Chowfla

The Ramayana

The Ramayana, the story of the ideal king Rama, (seen as the national epic) is the story of the good warrior king/ hero/ god Rama who is banished from his kingdom to the deep forest due to the machinations of his stepmother Kaikeyi, who wants her own son to be king. Rama’s wife Sita and brother Lakshmana follow him into exile. Towards the end of the fourteen year exile, the form- changing demoness Surpanakha, the guardian of the forest, is attracted to the two young princes and tries to seduce them by taking human form. The brothers mock her, and as she plunges to attack Sita she is punished by Lakshmana who cuts off her nose and ears. The wounded Surpanakha then goes to her brother, the powerful demon king Ravana and incites him to abduct the princess Sita in revenge. This leads to a Great War where Rama kills Ravana and defeats the demon army, fulfilling his destiny as the god-king.

Chala/ Intrigue

is based on the incident where the old hunch-backed wet nurse of the Warrior Queen Kaikeyi, the stepmother of  Prince Rama, plays upon her insecurities to ask for Rama’s banishment to the forest before his coronation in order to crown her own son the king. The palace intrigues are portrayed by creating elaborate tableaux which are reminiscent of early 20th century Indian “Company” theatre.

Set of 6 sepia colored archival inkjet prints

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Indrajaala / Seduction ( video)

– is based on the punishment of the demoness  Surpanakha by cutting off her nose and ears by the prince Lakshmana in the Ramayana, using the style of early silent cinema and animation, which the artist sees as the “primitive” of the modern era.

3 channel or single channel, B&W video, 4.6 min, silent, HD, 2012

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Apaharana / Abduction

Based on the abduction of princess Sita by the demon Ravana. The act of the abduction of a woman which is a central theme in many of the world’s mythologies, is stretched out in many frames using Orientalist images of the odalisque. The pictures take references from Western oil painting and a dark Symbolist imagery via their use in Hollywood and Indian films, Ravi Varma paintings, popular illustrations and calendar paintings.

Set of 9 archival  inkjet prints

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Mrugayati / The Hunt

A video created from still images of the demon chasing the princess, like a fragment from a recurring dream or nightmare.

Stop motion, colour, 1 min, with sound


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