Kama Sci-Fi

Kama Sci-Fi

Filmed theatre review by Poppy Bennett

Set in the eleventh and twenty-first centuries, Kama Sci-Fi is a delightful adventure of a play written by Raminder Kaur and directed by Mukul Ahmed. The all-too familiar fun of time travel becomes a fascinating way to explore the differences between the complicated and digitally mediated romances of today and the learned and holistic loving of India’s past devadasis – those women who were ‘married to the divine’, dedicated to dance and experts of the 64 arts of the Kama Sutra. Often, this ancient sutra that was written by the sage Vatsyayana has been either dismissed as mere mystical philosophy; or overly sexualised where other skills and arts such as debate on political matters, expeditions, battle techniques, and knowledge of the effects of herbs have had no place.

The award-winning dancer and choreographer Arunima Kumar is beguiling in her acting debut as Chandra, a time-travelling devadasi who meets the British Asian, Aditya (Dave Kukadia), a man looking to win back his fiancĂ©’s love, Reema (Suzanne Kendall) who are touring the temple complexes of Khajuraho in present-day India. 

Chandra learns that the ancient manual has no parallel in the ‘manual of the Interrnet’ that the ‘Wiki people’ use as she queries Wikipedia on Aditya’s smartphone – a ‘bar of charcoal’ that gets ‘smart with Wifi’? ‘Dis powerful energy in the air’ explains Aditya to Chandra who immediately responds to Wi-Fi as a kind of modern-day mantra. Such miscommunications make for a riproaring hour of entertainment. It gets even more hilarious when Chandra tries to instruct Aditya on the arts of winning back love while learning those of the modern era from a befuddled Aditya including ‘flashering’: which, of course, must be, ‘a fork tongued position like the flash of lightening’ wonders Chandra.

Produced as research and development during the pandemic with limited access to venues, Kama Sci-Fi was rehearsed online and on stage for filmed theatre. It was screened on Bank Holiday Monday to a global audience - a scintillating way to end a sunny long weekend. 

The divine soundscape of birdsong and flowing water, not to mention the bewitching singing of Srishti (Laboni Barua) transports you to a dreamlike state. The striking costumes worn by the two devadasis, Chandra and Eshita (Anisa Butt), in an evocative setting designed by Erica Greenshields, gleam in Paul Micah’s incandescent lighting design - a commendable achievement considering the difficulties of combining lighting for theatre and film. Added to this is a powerful soundtrack that does a terrific job of transporting us from one time zone to another, almost like the theme tune to Dr Who’s TARDIS – which does indeed gets a mention in the script. Raminder Kaur’s writing is superb. Educational as well as entertaining, it contains gems of humour and a deeper subtext that has huge potential for a full production for the stage as well as suitable for a sci-fi story with a difference for film. Touching on gender, sexuality, love and life in a spirited way, Kama Sci-Fi has something to enwrap everyone. 

Photos by Shahadat Hossain


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