Savita Sastry’s dance entered new forays

Charting new seas is not uncommon for artistes. But then the theme should gel with the medium in which it is being presented. There are certain areas that are aesthetically non-conducive to an art form like classical dance. But with Savitha Sastry, the penchant to foray into hitherto unexplored zones overtakes aesthetics and art. And how does this happen? Through theatrical mime, spot-lighting technique and brilliant background score of course! Given certain parameters, Savitha explored a rather vague dogma which she chose to title, ‘Prophet’. To isolate her (or rather her husband AK Srikanth’s) philosophy and make it sound distinct and different, she embarked on a solo journey of transformation and retreat which in itself was impressive, bolstered by drama (in the form of abhinaya). Since the artiste was more known as a dancer, she dotted the thematic presentation with a few adavus set to hushed tones of solkattu in the background, at times slow motion, in tune with the sombre theme.

As such the theme was all about a poor, young girl Devaduta, abused by a tyrannical father. Her escape from home is a turning point of her life (there are three such) which leads her to a dance academy in a city where she starts as a labourer and metamorphoses into a dancer par excellence under a compassionate guru. The sudden turns and twists in life are attributed to an unseen voice (obviously attributed to God) guiding the heroine. The moment of death is portended, she ceases to identify with her prophet status and the theatrics end with the US slogan: liberty, equality and fraternity!

The interactive session with the audience was another highlight were many felt ‘enlightened’ through this presentation. There were some brilliant sparks of abhinaya like warding off the hooded snake -- with slow footwork showing her tug with the reptile, the slithering venom going up her body, enacting a hanging feeling with one hand trying to clutch at an invisible hand from the skies, her journey down the dance academy, and her affectionate gestures towards her children are something to write home about. The juxtaposing of popularity as a dancer and prophet was defined.

What is mind-boggling is the utter disregard to nomenclature and origin from where the genesis of this presentation erupted. The figure shown on stage is called a ‘Devaduta’ (emissary of God) and that seems to be the name of the protagonist too. The transformation, if any, should have been that of a ‘nartaki’ to a ‘rishika’ (seer). Our seers /rishis/saints are also foretellers of truth as against illusory world and so on. Prophets were first identified in Hebrew and later spread across other faiths barring Hinduism. How does one understand this mix-up? These patches of grey need to be definitely addressed before the presentation is taken abroad to a knowledgeable audience.