Prahallada Nataka is a 200-year old folk theatre from Ganjam in Odisha. Created by Ramakrusna Chhotaraya, the erstwhile king of Jalantara (a princely kingdom in the southern regions of Odisha), it tells the story of Vishnu’s man-lion incarnation Nrusingha, the asura king Hiranyakasyapa and his son Prahallada. Since it is a king pouring out his imagination, Prahallada Nataka turns out to rather grand in its construction- the costume is unusual, the music has a strong classical base, the moves are regal and dramatic, the dialogues are magnanimous and there is a general air of grandeur.
Fearing what exists now might also be lost to oblivion in a matter of another few decades, I tweeted and asked the wonderful Odia Twitter community if they would be willing to financially assist this project. Most people were unaware of what Prahallada Nataka was in the first place. Soon, about 30 people had agreed to help me. Within 1-2 weeks, we had a starting fund to undertake the project.
The plan was to completely record a 12-hour performance in an actual village setting on 1st March 2018, the day of Dola Purnima, a festival when Prahallada Nataka is ritually staged. Days before, we came to know of another performance just two days ago in a place not too far away from our original site and three of us agreed to start immediately that night. Hence, we got not 12 but 24 hours of multicam footage (~1TB). This footage shall be edited, subtitled and put online with sufficient research material to make it as understandable as possible.
Thanks to this project, we have now been able to produce what is the first ever complete documentation of this magnanimous but largely ignored and critically endangered folk theatre of Odisha. I hope this digital preservation will help revive and breathe new life into Prahallada Nataka’s present state.