30th October at 6:30 pm

Nagamandala (100 min)

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Written by Girish Karnad
Presented by The Company, Chandigarh
Directed by Neelam Man Singh Chowdhry

The Play

Nagamandala (100 min)Girish Kamad's plays take their cue from the past in order to observe the present. Nagamandala is a story that is fluid enough to disturb stable represen­tations.  In it he weaves together two Kannada folk stories, the first about the contradictory nature of oral tales and their relationship with the storyteller. The second is the story of an unhappy bride, who fills her loneliness by conjuring fantasies, dreams and illusions to give meaning to her life.

   The story about a snake becoming her lover; after drinking the magic potion, can be perceived on many levels. There is the literal narrative-a snake assuming the role of her husband. And on a com­pletely different register, the transformation of the snake husband into the snake can assume a philosophical tenor. Does the Naga lover really exist or is he a figment of her imagination? Or is the husband play­ing a game of his own? Or is it the wife who creates her own story? The questions can go on.

The character of the husband is split into two. In his human form, he is the coarse and boorish man, who brutalizes his wife Rani during the day, but at night he metamorphoses into a divine lover-a Naga-Raja. Both halves are unaware of each other, both exist in one another, both are each other's divided   self, contradicting and contrasting, in a dynamic play of fantasy and illu­sion.

       Karnad explores the meaning of creativity by presenting a complex and provocatively ambiguous world where fictional characters intermingle and the lines between the visible and the invisible are blurred. What makes his work fas­cinating is that even though it is set in the tradition­al/ folk format, it examines issues that are contem­porary. The story is grounded in reality, with its daily chores of washing and cooking. But within that world the characters take flight. The play locates in a fluid and magical world, where anything can happen…


The Director

Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry took her Master’s degree in art history at the Punjab University Chandigarh and later attended the National School of Drama in Delhi, where she specialized in acting, and qualified for her Diploma in 1975.  She worked for Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal from 1980 to 1984 – where she was involved with the folk arts – and in 1990 joined the Department of Indian Theatre, Punjab University. Based in Chandigarh since then, she has taught acting in her university and has simultaneously pursued an independent career as a director.

Her directorial work has been distinguished by its imaginative employment of theatrical arts and narrative material from her native Punjab, wedded to contemporary themes.  Woman has remained a focal point in her productions of plays such as Jean Giradoux’s The Madwoman of Chaillot, Surjit Patar’s Kitchen Katha and Girish Karnad’s Nagamandala. Her other noteworthy productions are Racine’s Phedre and Lorca’s Yerma. The latter play represented India at the London International Festival of Theatre, while Nagamandala has been staged at the first International Festival of Theatre in Tashkent. Her creative work necessitated the creation of her own company in 1984, consisting of both rural and urban actors.  Simply called The Company, it has attracted attention for its innovative work Films on The Company have been commissioned and shown on Dordarshan and BBC’s Channel 4.

Besides her work on the stage, she has organized a seminar on traditional and modernity in Chandigarh and has presented papers in seminars held in various countries in Europe and also in Australia and Japan

She received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2003.



Writer                    Vajinder Kumar
Flames                    Gick Grewal, Bahadur Chand, Amarjit, Desraj,
Ramanjit Kaur & Hitender Kumar
Story                      Payal Choudhury
Shama / Naga         Vajinder Kumar
Rani                       Ramanjit Kaur / Payal Choudhary
Blind Woman            Gick Grewal
Kesho                     Hitender Kumar
Musicians                Mehr Chand, Prem Chand, Mundri Lal, Chandan Lal, Bahadur Amarjeet, Desraj
Singers                   Pamela Singh, Mehr Chand, Anil Sharma


                   Back Stage              Amit Kumar, Desraj, Amarjeet, Hitender Kumar, Vajinder
Director                  Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry
Written by               Girish Karnad
Punjabi Translation   Surjit Patar
Music Director                    B.V. Karanth
Light Design            Daulat Vaid
Set Design               Kabir Singh