The location for Murmurs in the Wind was an old three storey building , formerly a community centre in the 80’s located in Little India (Kampong Kapor, Singapore) which was used by Singai Tamil Sangam (STS), an Indian Organisation and we converted it into our performance space.
The building possessed a concrete foreground, which we utilized in the first scene of our production. The story teller Hamsa, led the audience to the scene that depicted the war ground in the Kurushetra War in Mahabharatha. It was the war zone and carnage whereby its uneven hard surface and grey exterior, was instrumental in bringing out the hostility and ‘coldness’ of war; the loss of lives!
Here, Saguni played by percussionist Shamroz Khan stood by the live burning fire instigating his nephews, the Kauravas (the 100 brothers and cousins of the Pandavas) to plot for the fall of the Pandavas. Dancers, Bernice Lee, Lavanaya Dave and Eva Tey played the three main brothers of the Kaurava clan, dance segment choreographed by Danang Pamungkas from Solo, Indonesia.
The war scene was made available to the passer-bys who were at the open carpark in front of the building. Usually a group of Indian Migrant workers will sit on the grass patch in this area to have a meal and or to chat with their friends. This scene gave them and others an opportunity to watch this segment of the performance without an entrance ticket, reaching out to more audiences each night!
Location 2- Balcony
The second floor balcony (just above the admin office of STS) was one location which we transformed to represent the heavens or the domain of the gods. Vaayu, who is known as the god of Wind, stands by the outdoor balcony, overlooking the war scene as a symbolic representation of the abode of heaven or as he passes by as the element – the WIND. Dian Bokir from Jawa, Indonesia played as Vaayu. He brought a strong presence to the character through his voice and robust movements originating from Indonesian martial arts and traditional Javanee dance.
The accessible rooftop of the building which opens to murals painted by visual artist Charlie Lim for our earlier production Grey, served as a backdrop for the Kurushetra battle scene. Red Flags of the Kauravas were thrown from above as the war began. Finely calculated with the music by composer Kailin and live percussion playing of Shamroz Khan, the flags flew down mainly to highlight the fall of each warrior from the Kauravas and the loss of lives!
Location 4-Indoor Studio
Another location we utilized was the large studio space on the ground level. This area represented the juxtaposition to the chaos of the ‘war’ scene with a silent and sombre atmosphere penetrated by the silhoutte of a striking female figure lurking in the shadows at the veranda facing the studio.
The backyard of the studio space/varanda opens to reveal the character, Gandhari (the protaganist), mother of the Kauravas. She sits and awaits news of the fate of her 100 sons who have gone to the Grand War (Krushetra) with the Pandavas. But here, she sits reminisicing the moments when her sons were little and growing up, she was the young mother – Gandhari who blind folded herself as her husband was borne blind and she did not wish to remind him of his weakness in their relationship. You hear her singing a lullaby to her sons as she shows them the bright moon in the sky and tries to feed them.
The area was well suited for this as it was not lit well and partially enclosed overlooking the open space next to the building. But we could certainly observe the Bight Moon to which choreography was focused. Shahrin Johry worked in-collaboration with choreographer/dance artist Nirmala Sheshadri (Young Artist Award recipient) to create Ghandari.
The partially open veranda that led us to the big enclosed studio thereby provided the audiences who were seated in the studio supported by air-conditioning a different realm. This space was certainly calmer than the earlier chaotic one (war scene) which happened at the forefront of the building. It provided a sense of relief while at the same time, a sombre experience as we hear the live playing of the cello by musician Noella Yan from Australia, who collaborated with us for the first time.
However, the mood changed once Ghandari heard of the devastating news of the demise of her sons from Vaayu. The conversation between Ghandari and Vaayu was supported by live music by Noella and composer, Kailin Yong. Suddenly faintly we hear the flute sound of composer/musician Rgahaveendra sipping into the space. Raghha representing the voice of Lord Krishna, brings the space of agony to acceptance, but Ghandari still seated looking blankly with weld up eyes..
Then slowly, we see the doors of the main studio open and we witness the arrival of the souls of the 3 Kaurava brothers, the space transformed and offered her the last spiritual encounter. Ghandari sat holding, hugging her sons, singing the lullaby for one final time, as we saw Vaayu standing at the veranda waiting to guide the souls to their abode.
(Photos courtesy of Kinetic Expression and Tet Photography)