Photos: Lalitha Venkat
December 19, 2008
for the anti heroines...
Clad in white
satin, Sharodi Saikia, the Sattriya performer took over the stage on the
third day of the Natya Kala Conference. The Assamese dancer brought in
yet another illustration of Ramayana. In her own words, "For the entertainment
of the commoners, Madhav Kandoli, a 14th century writer, takes liberties
from the core version... for instance he explores Manthara's character
only to ridicule... generally for the amusement of the commoners."
music and song the dancer used was almost simple and colloquial. With glib
movements and subtle expressions, Sharodi could ingeniously bring out the
Hasya Rasa. She depicted the shrewd anti heroine who was responsible for
the change of course in the epic... she plots, she spoils and celebrates
her prospects. Manthara dances joyously as a swan and nurtures a secret
ambition of ruling Ayodhya, but how? By becoming the mistress of Bharata!!
makes you fall in love with Soorpan-akha. This seductress emerges from
Vishwanath Satyanarayana's 'Ramayana Kalpavrikshamu.' And Swapnasundari
extends this Soorpanakha on stage in her very own artistic portrayals based
on the poet's imagination. The anti heroine of Ramayana reveals herself
neither as a divine beauty nor as a dreadful demoness, but as a compelling
analogies and the dancer's depiction of the same was simply dazzling, especially
when Swapna sang, described and expressed the phrases "lola netre" or the
one with rolling eyes, of a wanton woman! With more such metaphors and
expressive imagery, Swapnasundari herself seemed to have mesmerized the
audience! The auditorium roared with claps as the dancer culminated her
power packed presentation with Keshavadas' (17th century poet) verses based
on Soorpanakha's eccentric character with a brief expressional dance. Well
Reamker... where Hanuman is in love!
Shapiro spoke about the all pervading Ramayana in their culture and art
before tracing a parallel tradition of the art of the Devadasis in Cambodia.
Along with her senior disciple, Sophiline aptly introduced the technical
nuances of Cambodian classical dance and its unique hand gestures, restrained
facial expressions and the movement of spine as the dancer swayed across
A brief screening
of the film 'Sovann Machha' or the golden mermaid showed a dancer, beautifully
clad in shimmering gold costume being enticed by a dancer sporting a monkey
mask. The dance was a contrast of a graceful mermaid against a mischievous
dancing monkey. This sub plot in the Cambodian Reamker is indeed an interesting
facet in the evolution of Ramayana where Hanuman mates a mermaid!
on stage, V R Devika brought forth a multi media presentation for a packed
audience of school children and elders who were children at heart!
Tamil folk dancers, shadow leather puppets and song interspersed with informal
dialogue, to the delight of the onlookers. Devika also lured the children
into the story telling by making them participate with all enthu!! Ramayana
for children could have been nothing better!!
"Here is a
multi-dimensional approach to this oft repeated theme of Ramayana which
showcases different facets of story telling. And as the conference is progressing
day after day, it is an enriching experience... Any conference convening
should evolve into this level of professionalism...," discussed young dance
gurus Sreelatha Vinod, Sasirekha Raammohan and Divyasena
from the forum called Prayatnam.
"We see an
in-depth treatment in the present conference, where presenters seem to
justify their demonstrations. It is also an enriching experience
to see children involved in a serious Natya symposium by including a special
story telling session. This is how we could inculcate newer generation
into the classical arts, those who are otherwise left to cinema and books
for their knowledge, by including them in a few sessions. I see the conference
as one of the best until today."
Venkataraman, Dance critic, commentator
Sagar is a cultural commentator and critic based in Hyderabad.