Savitha Sastry’s ‘Soul Cages’ had splendid production values and a sensitive storyline.
There was clearly a mission behind the dance-theatre production ‘Soul Cages’… a mission to engage a wider audience that may not have been exposed to the classical performing arts, especially Bharatanatyam. The strategy was to combine the spoken word, classical music and dance into a palatable, seamless whole.
A.K. Srikanth’s story about a soul that carries memories with it to heaven was dramatic and powerful, as was Rajkumar Bharati’s excellent music composition and orchestration and Savitha Sastry’s precision-driven performance.
With the professional production values it carried, ‘Soul Cages’ could have soared high in the arts circuit. Except that the show did not rise above the level of an ‘attractive’ package.
Since the thought-process was largely linear, it would have benefitted with more subtlety and craft in its presentation.
Rich in orchestration
In this mixed bag, there were poignant moments when the angel takes the child away and when the mother discovers her child’s death the next morning, that were unexplored like loose threads left hanging...
On the other hand, the child’s rant against the ‘Ruler of the Kingdom of Souls’ when she is forbidden from returning to her loved ones, was a theatrical triumph.
Disjointed movements to the accompaniment of recited rhythmic syllables, strong percussion with African and Japanese drums, and the use of the stage with spots lighting up the far corners, illustrated the child’s distress far better than the mundane introductory words did.
The lighting (Victor Paulraj) was stark with just enough to see the dancer, leaving the vast empty space dark, so it did not overwhelm the soloist. The projection of the angel’s wings and the king’s visage on a white screen was also clever.
The music was one of the highlights of ‘Soul Cages.’ Rich orchestration with Hindustani and Carnatic accents with the veena, violin, sitar, santoor and other instruments accompanied the essentially graceful, expressive and confident Savitha on the journey of the soul. Particularly special was a violin segment in the rant scene that had been composed almost like a symphony in Keeravani.
There arose some confusion as regards the soul, even going by the author's premise. The introduction declared the soul to be always free, that it changes forms in eternity and for those whom death is a transition...
Why was this child’s soul not in transition then?