Photos: Lalitha Venkat
December 17, 2008
Ramayana, one more time
…and times to come!
pervaded in the hearts... as the curtains rose for Ramayana in Performing
Arts at this season's Natya Kala Conference.
nose pins, jasmines strung on tresses, the Kanchivaram clad dancers, connoisseurs
and cultural commentators gathered once again to add yet another milestone
to the two decade old Natya Kala Conference. The festive occasion was powered
with a theme offered for the presenters to explore... and yes, they did...
sharing their intimate sojourn with themes of Ramayana in their lives and
Even in the
keynote address, Mr. K Jayakumar, cultural commentator and writer (Additional
Chief Secretary, Govt. of Kerala) who expressed himself being "Ramayana
conscious," bowed to the countless artists and performers who have quietly
kept the tradition alive for generations together - a tradition of unparalleled
creations behind a shining new India. Convener of the Natya Kala
Conference, Dr. Ananda Shankar Jayant states, "Rama has drawn me often-
and He seems to have done it again," before she introduced the raison d'être
for choosing a particular theme, which has traversed across the Pan Asia
for thousands of years and more! Y Prabhu, Secretary, Sri Krishna Gana
Sabha furthered the thought of Ramayana - to delve on this stage, which
has been a melting pot for artists and connoisseurs, young and old alike
for many years now.
the maestro... once again to leave some magical moments in history. Padma
Subrahmanyam, fondly called Paddu Akka, said, "What would India be without
Ramayana..."?! There was a chilling silence and a collective shiver among
the audience!! Until she broke the ice by lucidly narrating the spiritual
culture and beauty of Ramayana that India embraces. Giving plentiful
examples from real life instances to what the great poets said of Rama
Katha, Paddu Akka mesmerized the listeners.... "When Kamban, the great
Ramayana interpreter and writer says of Valmiki Ramayana - I feel like
a small kitten wanting to drink the milky ocean of Rama Katha... in such
a case we are but a speck fortunate to probe into the essence of Ramayana..."
Padma Subrahmanyam further interpreted the essence of some characters who
make the epic so complete. Like different forms of reverence these characters
depict- Hanuman, Sita Bharata, Sabari Vibheeshana, Lakshmana, Sugreeva
and Jatayu in a brief revealing dance.
of the inaugural day presentation came from Padma Subrahmanyam herself
when she brought to the fore, a hitherto unseen film excerpt from her archives,
which was shot over three decades ago. Here we see a young Padma vividly
dancing and innately dramatizing the scene of 'Jatayu Moksham' to the monumental
Western classical composition of Tchaikovsky that saw some onlookers with
tears in their eyes!!
followed, matching the power of Paddu Akka on stage. In her unique approach
to story telling, Prema preaches the essence of Dharma in Ramayana. An
oral tradition of Valmiki Ramayana- story telling – completely reloaded
with a blend of Sanskrit verses, English interpretations and varied illustrations
from contemporary occurrences- which make us ponder on the path of Dharma
that Rama personifies. And for the dancers and dance aficionados, Prema's
presentation was like understanding a different form of performance which
is equally emotive and dramatic.
conference is a kind that is thoroughly professional, international and
that, which sets a standard for others to follow. I appreciate the convener
Dr. Ananda who not only lets a stimulating theme flow for the presenters
but also stages a complete expertise in bringing out a festive atmosphere,
what with exhibitions on Ramayana folk art paintings, puppet shows and
book exhibitions. I also congratulate Ananda for bringing out an excellent
compilation of articles in the 2008 Natya Kala Conference catalogue. The
beautifully designed book makes for a collector's item!! It's time the
new generation conveners like Ananda took over the reins."
Kothari, dance critic and commentator
years, in any kind of endeavor, a time comes for magic to happen... and
today we saw these moments at the much famed Natya Kala Conference. The
conference began auspiciously and we saw two distilled and intrinsic art
forms. If Prema Pandurang stands for absolute Vachika Abhinaya, Padma Subrahmanyam's
art form evokes unparalleled beauty in Satvika Abhinaya. Encasing these
two great presenters together so handsomely is in itself an art! I congratulate
Ananda for her committed efforts in designing the whole programme. I am
sure there will be more such magical moments in the following days of the
Khokar, scholar and dance historian.
Sagar is a cultural commentator and critic based in Hyderabad.