Bangalore Mirror | Burning Effigies Of Beliefs

The discourse over the validity of our beliefs — religious, political or emotional — has been raged several times. With the play K-Pax, Tahatto theater group is rekindling the debate once again, albeit, with a difference. Based on the novel On a beam of light by Gene Brewer, K-Pax is a sci-fi psychological drama. It explores human acceptance and how rigidly we hold on to our notions — scientific, moral and spiritual — without allowing space to question those very beliefs, through a character who claims to be alien. But no one would know for sure, if that's the truth.

"That's the nature of truth," says director Badarivishal Kinhal. "Especially with subjective truth. Your truth can be different from mine." The attempt here is not to show a way, but to leave the audience with a nagging question on why we believe in something, or not. "We wanted to bring beliefs in contrast with other faiths in a larger context to show that no single line of belief is the ultimate truth," Kinhal says.

The play, set in a mental institution whose newest patient claims to be an alien from the planet K-Pax, picks up on the society's understanding of mentally ill patients, which terms them "moronic". Taking the mental illness theme as the base plot, the play explores, on a metaphorical level, the ephemeral nature of beliefs nurtured by humans. Although the initial prognosis is that the patient may be living with schizophrenia and multiple-personality syndrome, the story teases without taking a clear stance, nudging the viewer to decide for themselves. The play explores the meaning of believing in empathy, in acceptance and beyond all, in magic.

The character of the psychologist in the play embodies the secure belief system of Science that refuses to acknowledge anything beyond the realm of logic. He tries to explain everything through a clinical angle, but the "somewhat rigid" character of the psychologist also vacillates in the cusp of belief and non-belief. In fact, none of the characters in the play are straight jacketed to belong to any particular category. The characters sometimes believe in the "alien", and other times they are skeptical. The character of the patient itself oscillates between the known definitions of sanity and insanity, but one is forced to re-think the values of insanity when the "mad alien" talks sense.

The play is based in India, but doesn't etch out any particular place or time to keep intact the universal nature of the message. The characters play out in a make-believe setting, breaking down the fourth wall to let the audience in. The narrative of the play throws questions at the audience subtly, but it is never an active interaction, but rhetoric. But the play is not all serious. "We have tried to tell the story in a light-hearted way. There is humour, there is sarcasm, which makes this play interesting," Kinhal says.

This adaption by Tahatto, stays true to the theatre group's trademark characteristic of picking stories that question set societal norms. K-Pax, although set in a mental hospital, mirrors how we function as a society and a species, and asks the fundamental question, 'Why is it so easy for us to disbelieve something we don't know as opposed to questioning what we thought we always knew?' And also there's nothing like conspiracy theories to get a conversation going and K-Pax does just that.

Click here for the full article


Jagriti is a Performance Arts space dedicated to Theatre, Music, Dance and Comedy. Founded in 2011 by Arundhati and Jagdish Raja, the space has hosted several productions from India and around the world. A 200-seat theatre, built around a full-thrust stage, it is fully equipped to cater to both artistes and audience. The main stage is designed for intimate performances with adjoining spaces for informal lectures and gatherings. Jagriti is owned and operated by the not-for-profit ART Foundation, a registered charitable trust.

The Rooftop - above the main auditorium is an open-to-sky space with a staging area that can accommodate about 50 people. A raised and walled off platform can work as a perfect area for puppet theatre. The Rooftop has a restroom and a pantry. 

The Terrace - alongside the auditorium, the Terrace can accommodate about 20 people as an informal gathering area.

Lumbini - extending out from the foyer, Lumbini has a stage and an open-to-sky terraced space for about 80 people.