Brilliance at the Expense of His Sleep

Nimmy Raphel’s Nidravathwam—or for that matter Nimmy Raphael herself as a performer—has a rare quality of unwavering strength. Not just her ability of almost holding the audience at her fingertip, but the sheer physical strength of her large, strong, muscular body which has gone through extensive training of Kalaripayattu, Kathakali, Yoga and other physical practices—some of it originating as part of the ongoing research on performative physicality and emotionality at Adishakti, where she has worked for years.

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It’s one of those performances that one watches with gaping mouth, while consciously letting one’s critical thoughts sort of wander off the auditorium.

Though she spices it up with brilliant gestural quirks and silly (but heartbreaking!) humour, and though it also falls under a mild stereotype that Adishakti has created as their own space in the Indian contemporary performance world, the piece steps beyond the boundaries of its limitations, when Nimmy throws questions at the audience on behalf of Kumbhakarna—her protagonist: “Am I awake? Or am I asleep dreaming of my death?” or “…I would sleep for fourteen years? Or I would sleep my fourteen years’ sleep on one night?” It then sends a chill to the spine of the audience, whom the questions are addressed to.

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Photography: Sidharth, Sharan

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