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Enter a neighbouring nobleman, handsome Sundar, Prince of Kancipur (James Brown), disguised as an aged sannyasi (mendicant-ascetic). A date for their contest is set. However the prince -- no longer in disguise -- enters her rooms by night with the help of his former nursemaid. Vidya's several other maids believe Sundar is a god incarnate. However they're soon dismissed whereupon Sundar attempts to persuade Vidya that love is of the heart, not the head; a matter of passion and not of intellect. Such persuasive subterfuge, and a liberal measure of seduction gives the princess pause for thought.

Later, when news of the intrusion leaks out scenes of palace outrage and consternation ensue. To add credence to the story that the visitor was a god, Sundar reappears masquerading as a god but his plan backfires and he's promptly imprisoned.

Hira aids his escape and in the public debate the next day the prince -- disguised once again as an ascetic -- uses Vidya's own words against her to swing the debate in his favour [watch and listen -- chapter 22, 1:38:18-1:39:16]. Vidya, realizing it is the handsome prince from the night before, cedes the contest immediately.

A scene from 'The Thief of Love'. DVD screenshot © 2006 Hummingbird Films
A scene from 'The Thief of Love'. DVD screenshot © 2006 Hummingbird Films

In fact the prince played a winning hand for at that time Bengal had a self-sufficient village agrarian economy, a feudal system and a distinct regional identity. Language, script, artistic and cultural styles were well developed yet Vedic rituals were weak and knowledge-based philosophy was subordinate to physical feelings and aesthetics. This, in turn, led to a highly humanistic culture, a growing recognition of property rights of women, plus a parallel rise in romantic and physical aspects of the lore.

I missed views of the Stony Brook audience or orchestra -- without them the theatrical totality is never truly apparent. Another quibble stemmed from too generous a quotient of inaction when all extras were onstage. To finish, on my screen the action was consistently bathed in overly rubescent lighting set against unvarying deep blue. Spot 'target' lighting was, however, effectively used.

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Copyright © 30 September 2007 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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