Myths And More
German theater director-artiste Felix Mathias Ott’s production Ramanaya explores the Indian epic Ramayana in a contemporary narrative.
Indian epic Ramayana has been interpreted by many in myriad ways, inspiring a host of productions that often add a tinge of their own interpretations as they weave their art around it. German performer and choreographer Felix Mathias Ott, who is bringing his play Ramanaya (not Ramayana) to Bengaluru this weekend, is no different.
The epic has never ceased to capture the imagination of people, says Ott. And it is this fascination with mythology that draws him to them each time.
“I have always been fascinated by mythology and fables. I traveled to India in 2013, with my production, Odyssey Complex. It is then that I started a conversation with Bangalore-based artist’s collective, Sandbox Collective, about working on something in India,” he says.
Odyssey Complex was an experiment that explored the multiple connections that people have with a myth or an infinite object. Choreographed by Ott, it was an effort to navigate through the many myths and imaginations that have crept into the minds of people. The performance was crafted to transport the performer and the spectator from a normal situation to one strongly connected with various narratives like animalism, gods, strengths, sexuality, and energies of the cosmos.
For his next production in India, Ott chose to explore the Ramayana. He has added his bit of colors and creativity in it. Ott explains that the production is not a reproduction or an adaptation of the epic.
“We use the Ramayana as a playground and enter a world that is huge and sacred. Through a playful approach we find new ways of reading the story, and search for a platform to find new interpretations and new questions,” Ott elaborates.
He is a man who wears many hats. Ott is an experienced stage designer, video artist, author, director. His collaborations with artistes all over the world either for his own creations or with other initiatives has made him dabble with many concepts and ideas. His performances are supported in various countries by the Goethe Institut.
The 35-year-old Berlin-based artiste is known for his stunning choreography in the field of contemporary performing arts. Inspired by his father, a German actor, Ott developed a huge interest in theater and later decided to study stage design to get a better know-how of the craft of theater. His work creates reflexive spaces where the spectators are free to explore their creativity, traversing through different ideas.
The artiste notes that his work often poses questions to the audience, compelling them to think. This is what makes his stories stand out in the crowd.
Artistes working with an epic often face challenges while weaving their plays and productions around it. Ott’s experiences were no different, more so as he had to bridge several cultural gaps. The greatest challenge was working with a story, which is thousands of years old. Also, it is a subject that has been explored numerous times. The challenge for him was to connect with it.
“Especially because I come from a different cultural background. Unlike most Indians, I did not grow up with the Ramayana, but I found parallels to other stories and fables from my own background, in the end they all speak of the same thing,” he notes.
He and his team constructed a map, which is similar to a playground that involves different media such as film, music, dance, lights and stage design. “The audience is confronted with a complex construction from where we all need to find our own path. There are infinite possibilities of reading an epic like the Ramayana, it is open to interpretations and our work is to ask questions and open it out to those interpretations,” Ott explains.
Yet another of his acts that he conceptualized in collaboration with artiste Bahar Temiz, and performed in, was M.A.R.S. The two artistes examined the fundamentals of moving together, and tried to reinvent themselves through this act, while they moved from one situation to the other.
For now, the multifaceted artiste is excited about his show and taking it to different cities across India and exploring the different sides of the country while touring. “I’m sure there will be several collaborations with this team in the years to come,” says Ott. “This feels like the first chapter of a book and there will be lots to look forward to.”