Photos: Lalitha Venkat
December 22, 2008
they danced, they conquered...
Shirke almost surged on to the stage with a forceful rendition of the battle
of Lanka. Along with four other Kathakars, the dancer delved on the emotional
combat in the heart of Mandodari, the favourite queen of the ten headed
haughty emperor who himself heads towards the battle ground. The thought-through
choreography in spilt second successions, the rhythmic sounds of ankle
bells and provoking beats of percussion... all set the mood for this
much energized theatrical dance presentation titled 'Ravana Mandodari Samvad.'
Rajashree recited the preludes and interestingly linked and developed the
story with the monkey military's completion of the bridge. With mixed reactions,
the message is received by Ravana, who then instinctively rolls out brash
words out of all of his ten mouths together (talking from ten heads at
a time - a sign which foresees his death in the epic!). Mandodari's
pleas to Ravana are juxtaposed by the advancing Rama and his monkey military
that leads to the crescendo of the war. Rajashree reviving the Kathakar
tradition of Kathak keeps Mandodari's truthful prophesy as the spine of
this brief and thought provoking narrative. Whoever missed the show...
bad luck, friends!
staged excerpts from the classic and evergreen choreographic creations
of the doyen of Kalakshetra, Rukmini Devi. The tall and stately dancer
as Ravana swayed across the stage with dramatic dance movements. He chose
episodes like Sita Swayamvaram, abduction of Sita and finally the battle
of Lanka. Each sequence was neatly etched with telling expressions and
grace. The choreographer dotingly blended in elements of Kathakali for
the portrayal of the anti hero, a role that fit Sheejith like a glove.
It's heartening to know that Rukmini Devi's ingenuity in designing these
dance dramas over half a century ago is still in practice. Way ahead of
her times, these choreographic productions are like reference books for
the artists who succeeded and also for newer choreographers who experimented.
Thanks to Sheejith for bringing out the maestro's wholesome works to light
in this Natya Kala Conference.
songs of Rama
"Ethade Parabrahma vidhiye Ramakatha," "Entho Mahanubavudavu," "Paluke
bangara mayena" and "Ea theeruga" - the timeless devotional poetry of the
medieval times, rendered soulfully by Venu Madhav from Hyderabad, touched
a chord in the hearts of the rasikas.
twinkle little star
This 10 year
old grand niece of Padma Subrahmanyam was a delight to watch. In her effortless
rendition of "Bhavayami Raguramam," young Mahati Kannan summed up the whole
Ramayana epic! Backed by the nattuvangam of Padma Subrahmanyam, the rising
Bharata Nrithyam dancer is indeed a star in the making.
Here is the
laptop, ipod and gadget savvy newer generation interested in Rama bhakti.
Strumming the guitar, Vedant Bharadwaj rendered Rama bhajans of Kabir and
Tulsidas. He chose "Sri Ramachandra kripalu bajamana" for it is famous
among dancers as well as musicians. "This is a good way to reach out to
more people. I don't go too much out of the classical, as I donít want
to displease the elders!" Way to go, Vedant.
"It's a wonderful
symposium happening in Chennai... it's colorful, varied, informative, educative
and a joyous experience."
Visweswaran, dance guru
"I am coming
to the conference everyday. The lectures are brilliant, and so is the theme
and I am making the best of it."
"We are teaching
and performing abroad. It's always invigorating to come back to the roots
in Chennai and participate in a conference like this."
Rajagopalan (New York)
Sagar is a cultural commentator and critic based in Hyderabad.