One small step for Frog, a giant leap for amphibians

All photos: Sudam CK

Bhaktaprasad Bhyaguto is an odd little frog. Born in Ichangu under the ever-watchful gaze of Swyambhu, he is unlike any other anuran. Losing his tail, and out of his tadpole teens, he wants to explore Nepal.

Kanak Mani Dixit’s 1998 children’s book धुमधामको घुमघाम follows ‘Bhaktay’ as he floats down the Bagmati in a tin-can, rides an oxcart, wades through the Tarai jungles, travels to Pokhara in a truck, and even treks up to Dolpo, to return home in the shirt pocket of a Twin Otter pilot.

The Adventures of a Nepali Frog has been translated into over 20 languages, and 25 years after the book first came out, Bhaktay is also the first Nepali frog to star in his very own musical.

The play was adapted by Aayush Niroula and directed by Akanchha Karki, who herself grew up reading the frog book in school. Her adaptation of Orwell’s Animal Farm last year at Kausi Theatre was a hit.

धुमधामको घुमघाम on stage is a vibrant and colourful production, reflecting the exuberance and wanderlust of a curious frog, the people and animals he meets along the way, the dangers, excitement, changes and comforts of growing up on the go. Subhas Rai’s pencil etches in the original book metamorphose into the dynamic stage design.

The lyrics of the songs, the music and live rendition by Strings Impact  bring the characters and locations leaping out of the set. The humour and emotional content of the story finds perfect expression in the mellifluous soundtrack of folk and blues, remixes of old Nepali classics like Chanchaley chanchaley and Ma ta khadina kuwa ko pani, and even John Denver’s Country Roads.

The dialogue alone may not always release or appeal to pathos, but with songs and dance, the body shakes itself loose, twists and turns, jumps and slides, and the energy travels like lightning from the stage to the audience, as the impressive actors roll and quip, turning their heads and limbs to animal instinct and nature’s music.

The play does not ask the audience to suspend its disbelief: the actors are very clearly in onesies and animal masks. But viewers immediately find a point to connect with the characters, and empathise when the inhabitants of Chitwan National Park lament the loss of their jungle, or when a marmot is bullied for being different and having dreams and interests bigger than itself.

The lessons here, from geography to science to spiritualism, are manifold, but perhaps at the core the message is: ‘Be adventurous, travel and learn – be open and mindful, and appreciative of local culture.’

Courage is infectious, and Bhaktey and his creator both hope their imaginary journey inspires others to face challenges and undertake great adventures. The musical follows the novel’s core thirst for life and learning, inviting the audience to also go out and discover their country.

Akash Nepali, star of the show, says, “A mark of a good play, a good performance is that the audience eagerly partakes of the journey and joins in it.” धुमधामको घुमघाम does just that.

Produced by Rato Bangala Kitab, the original publisher of the novel, and Katha Ghera, the play was staged from 26-29 August 2022 at the Kamal Mani Theatre, and will continue at Kausi Theatre in Teku from Friday, 2 September.

धुमधामको घुमघाम

Based on the children’s book by Kanak Mani Dixit

Adapted by Aayush Niroula

Directed by Akanchha Karki 

2-19 September 2022

Kausi Theatre, Teku

Every day at 5:30PM (except Tuesday)

Additional 1:30PM show on Saturday

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Ashish Dhakal