When Koumarane Valavane introduced the actors of his play Karuppu, he said that Ruchi Raveendran, sitting on his right, could perhaps speak in Malayalam as she’s from Kerala. Karuppu was one of the 13 plays selected at the International Theatre Festival of Kerala last month, and Koumarane’s team – Indianostrum Theatre from Pondicherry – had come to Thrissur to play it for the 53rd or 54th time. In an interview days later, Ruchi would say that’s how much they have counted, she’s not sure if there were more stages since the play evolved from an idea that it had been four years ago.
The few gathered at a Meet The Artistes programme at ITFoK watch keenly as Ruchi speaks. She says she is from Aranmula, a temple town in Pathanamthitta, Kerala, but then goes on to talk about the play that she is so much in love with. It is during an interview to TNM that she says Aranmula is the home of her parents and the place she was born in, but she had been in Bengaluru most of her life, doing, among other things, teaching yoga.
Yoga is something she began practising later and when someone was very insistent that she teach them, she turned teacher. Just as inadvertently, she became an actor. And four years ago, she moved to Pondicherry for Karuppu.
But theatre had not been there in her life once. It was dancing that she loved. “I have been dancing since childhood,” Ruchi says.
Dance began with classical training and then Ruchi moved on to more western formats, to contemporary dance and jazz. Theatre, in those years, was something she helped to do the lights for. But one day, a production house she was helping with needed an actor. She became it.
Before Karuppu, it was dancing and acting, and teaching yoga. With Karuppu, dance has quietly moved into the background. But then the ITFoK description calls Karuppu a dance drama representation – “of the movement of the ultimate Purusha and Prakriti energies through the birth, destruction and rebirth of the universe.”
Ruchi calls it a movement theatre. That was the idea Koumarane began it with. “He wanted movement theatre but did not want a dance drama. But he was not able to communicate what he wanted. We worked with him, confused for the first two days. By the third day, it helped the mind to give up and the body to take over. It was a meditative point, a beautiful phase to let go of your mind. What comes out of one actor the other one catches on to, and starts reacting. The costumes, music all come afterward,” she says.
Ruchi has not taken up any other work in recent times, wishing to be readily available when there is a performance of Karuppu. She is happy that she was able to perform it in the hometown of her parents, Aranmula, during an Onam fest.